Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions where the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, becomes damaged. It's usually caused by fluid building up in the front part of the eye, which increases pressure inside the eye. Glaucoma can lead to loss of vision if it's not diagnosed and treated early.

Diagnosis of the condition is relatively simple.  An optometrist checks the eye pressure as part of an eye examination.  Three puffs of air are blown into the eye, and this provides an average for your eye pressure.  If the pressure is raised two further tests would be to look into your eye and field tests to measure your visual field.  A more accurate pressure test can be carried out by anaesthetising the eye so that it can be touched by a machine; this is usually carried out in a hospital. 

The groups of people more at risk of developing glaucoma include those who:

The most common type of glaucoma is primary open angle glaucoma (POAG) and the usual treatment is eye drops, which lower the pressure in the eye.  For the eye drops to be successful in helping to retain remaining sight, they have to be used regularly.  Without treatment the pressure in the eye rises slowly over time and damages the optic nerve.  This leads to sight loss, starting with peripheral vision. 

Acute angle closure glaucoma is less common than POAG.  In this condition pressure in the eye rises rapidly because the outer edge of the iris and the front of the eye (cornea) come into contact, which prevents the aqueous fluid from draining away as normal.  This can be very painful.  It should be treated urgently, usually with medicine and a form of laser surgery in order to save sight.

Secondary glaucoma can be caused by another eye condition affecting the front part of the eye; the anterior chamber which includes the iris and cornea.  Another cause could be an operation, injury or medication.  Treatment are individual but could include eye drops. 

The easiest way to find out if you or anyone else has glaucoma or any eye condition is to have an eye test or check by your local optician.

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