What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is the term we use for a group of conditions that can impair vision as a result of damage to the optic nerve, which sends signals from the eye to the brain. In the UK, the type we encounter most often is chronic open-angle glaucoma, which currently affects almost half a million people in England.

If chronic open-angle glaucoma is undetected and untreated, blank spots may appear in a person’s vision. If the condition remains untreated and the optic nerve becomes increasingly damaged, further vision loss and blindness could occur.

Other types of glaucoma include acute angle-closure glaucoma, which is much less common in Europe although people of Asian origin are known to be at higher risk.

Testing for glaucoma 

As those with glaucoma may not recognise they have a problem until irreversible damage has been caused, regular optician appointments are essential to ensure glaucoma can be detected early and treated before vision is significantly impaired.

While all adults should have their eyes tested every two years, those with a family history of glaucoma or other high risk factors (including black-African or black-Caribbean ethnicity) may be advised to attend for glaucoma tests every year.

Our glaucoma tests are quick and painless. We use an ophthalmoscope to examine the optic nerve and a hand held instrument to perform an eye pressure test.

With open-angle glaucoma, the aqueous fluid within the eye becomes blocked, which causes the build-up of pressure that can damage the optic nerve. If we identify raised pressure in the eye (known as ocular hypertension or OHT) this may indicate a need for additional tests that could confirm a diagnosis of glaucoma.

We also conduct visual field tests (perimetry) in which you will be asked if you can see a series of light spots. As glaucoma usually affects the outer edge of the eye first, an inability to see the spots that should appear in your peripheral vision may be another indicator of the condition.

Treating glaucoma 

If identified early, further vision impairment can usually be prevented with treatment that lowers the pressure within the eye. This may be in the form of eye drops, laser treatment or surgery.

As early diagnosis is essential to minimise any damage, if your eyes have not been tested recently we recommend you contact us today to book an appointment.

If you have any other concerns related to the health of your eyes you may also like to ask us about OCT screening, which can help diagnose glaucoma as well as a number of other conditions.