It is estimated that 500,000 people in the UK have glaucoma, and up to half of these people are unaware they have the condition - which can, if left untreated, permanently damage vision.
Monique Hope Ross, of Spire Eye Centre at Spire Little Aston Hospital, describes the signs to look for and how the condition can be treated.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a disease which causes damage to the nerve at the back of the eye. It is usually associated with high pressure in the eye. If left untreated, vision is lost and cannot be regained. Early diagnosis is the key to success.
Do I have glaucoma?
You may think that if your vision is perfect then you do not have glaucoma, but this is not always the case. In the early stages of glaucoma, there are no visual symptoms or pain. However, it is possible to detect and treat glaucoma in the early stages which allows early treatment and better long-term results.
An expert eye examination can detect glaucoma in its early stages. When you are first seen, a full medical history will be taken, along with a complete eye examination performed.
Visual field test
You may also have a visual field test, where you will be seated and asked to look at a central light in the middle of a large bowl. Other lights appear and you are asked to press a buzzer, if and when you see additional lights. The test takes approximately three minutes per eye and is completely painless.
Optic nerve analysis
The optic nerve itself is analysed with various methods. The most accurate is performed with optical coherence tomography. The test involves sitting at a machine, and looking at a light, that may be described to you as a red spot. A scan is performed, which is painless and very quick. The results give an excellent indication of the health of the optic nerve.
Who develops glaucoma?
The older you are, the greater the risk of developing glaucoma. For those over 40 years of age, two in 100 people have glaucoma. For those over 80 years of age, the risk increases to five in 100 people. The risk of developing glaucoma is also higher if you have a relative who has glaucoma.
What should I do now?
Everyone over 40 years of age should have regular eye checks with their optometrist. An optometrist will check the pressure in your eye and assess if there is any sign of glaucoma.