Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases which cause damage to the optic nerve, which connects your eye to your brain. The main cause of damage is an increase in the pressure of fluid inside your eye, which can be due to various reasons including blockage of drainage ducts, and narrowing or closure of the angle between the iris and cornea. This may affect one or both of your eyes. If you have glaucoma but do not treat it, your eyesight will gradually get worse and you could eventually go blind. The good news is that treatment with drops can stop it getting worse.
Anyone can develop glaucoma, however the risk is higher if you are
* Aged over 40
* Very short-sighted
* of African or Caribbean origin
closely related to someone with glaucoma
Because you often cannot feel the pressure and the damage happens slowly, you may not know you have glaucoma until a lot of the damage has been done. That damage cannot be put right, so it is particularly important that you find out early. The best way to make sure of this is to have regular eye examinations. If you are 40 or over and someone in your immediate family has glaucoma, the NHS will will fund your sight tests every year.
There are 3 main tests to see if you have glaucoma. The first one is a pressure check, the second is a careful examination of your optic nerve and the final being the measurement of your visual fields.
They may also take a photograph or a 3D OCT scan of the optic nerve and this can be very useful for future visits and helps to monitor change of your optic nerve. Measurement of the pressure is a gentle and non invasive procedure.
This is a rare type of glaucoma where the drainage ducts of your eye become blocked or damaged in some way, so the pressure increases rapidly. You may experience acute pain in the eye and blurred vision, and you may feel sick or even vomit. Early signs and symptoms are an ache in the eye which comes and goes, red eyes, and seeing haloes around lights. This type of glaucoma requires immediate medical attention to relieve symptoms and to prevent permanent loss of vision.
If you are found to have glaucoma, you will be given eye drops to use every day. The drops will reduce the pressure in the majority of cases and help control the build-up of fluid. In a small number of cases, you may be recommended to have an operation to drain away the fluid. There is no cure for glaucoma but it can be treated effectively. Any existing damage may be permanent, but your sight could get much worse if you do not continue treatment. It is very important that you continue to have regular check-ups and keep using the drops.
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