All you need to know about glaucoma

Written by: Top Doctors®
Published: | Updated: 11/01/2019
Edited by: Top Doctors®

Glaucoma is a disease which causes progressive damage to the optic nerve connecting brain and eye, gradually worsening over time and resulting in notable loss of sight. In many cases, glaucoma is genetic but does not begin to show symptoms till later on in life. Although it is a common condition, people are often not aware they have it as the early stages are frequently asymptomatic. It is most common in people in their 70s and 80s, but can affect all ages including babies.

What are the symptoms of glaucoma?

Glaucoma is usually picked up during a routine eye test, before any symptoms have become obvious. As it develops slowly over time, first affecting peripheral vision, many people do not realise they have it until it’s in the advanced stages. Although glaucoma generally affects both eyes, sometimes it can affect one eye worse than another. If left untreated, glaucoma can cause blindness. In some cases, glaucoma develops rapidly and causes:


  • Headaches
  • Eye pain
  • Red eye
  • Blurry vision
  • Halos around lights
  • Sensitivity around the eyes


The main types of glaucoma

There are various forms of glaucoma. These include:

  1. Primary open angle glaucoma – the most common, develops over many years
  2. Primary angle closure glaucoma – uncommon, develops either slowly or rapidly
  3. Secondary glaucoma – occurs as a result of another health condition
  4. Normal tension glaucoma – pressure in the eye remains normal
  5. Childhood glaucoma – a rare, congenital form of glaucoma that occurs in children


What causes glaucoma?

Glaucoma usually occurs when fluid cannot drain properly from the eye, due to a blockage. These leads to a build-up of fluid and therefore pressure in the eye which in turn may damage the optic nerve. Although any exact cause is not known, there are a number of risk factors that increase a person’s chance of getting glaucoma. These include:


  • Age – the older a person gets, the more likely it is they will develop glaucoma. Around 1 in 10 people over the age of 75 suffer from the most common type of glaucoma (primary open angle glaucoma)
  • Ethnicity – people of Asian, African, and Caribbean descent are more likely to develop glaucoma
  • Genetics – people who have a parent or sibling with glaucoma are more likely to develop it themselves.


Although there are no certain ways of preventing glaucoma, having frequent eye tests can ensure the condition is picked up earlier on.


How is glaucoma treated?

Unfortunately, vision loss cannot be reversed. However, certain glaucoma treatments can prevent loss of vision getting any worse. Treatment depends on the type of glaucoma. The most common types of glaucoma treatment are:


  • Eye drops – which reduce pressure in the eye
  • Laser treatment – Opens up blocked drainage channels relieving pressure on the eye, or reduces fluid production
  • Surgery – allows for better fluid drainage from eyes


If you have any further queries about glaucoma, get in touch with a GP or specialist


By Topdoctors

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