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Glaucoma & Treatment

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Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye diseases where vision is lost due to damage to the optic nerve. It causes irreversible vision loss due to this damage to the optic nerve. The loss of sight is usually gradual, and a considerable amount of peripheral (side) vision may be lost before there is any awareness of a problem. Unfortunately, there is no cure for glaucoma, and vision loss is irreversible. Most people can however manage their condition successfully with the use of eye drops, specialist laser treatment, surgery or a combination of all three.

There are two main forms known as open angle and closed angle glaucoma. The front of the eye has a chamber containing aqueous humour which is continually produced and drained. The angle refers to the point where the fluid drains from the eye.

Open angle glaucoma is the more common form. This means the drainage angle is open but there is increased resistance to outflow of the aqueous humour from the front chamber. Initially, as the nerve fibres are lost, there is a reduction in peripheral vision and if left untreated this can progress to severe vision loss. This change is not reversible; therefore, regular eye examinations and advanced retinal scans are essential as your optometrist will pick up the signs before you have any symptoms. Treatment can then be initiated to stop any further visual loss.

Closed angle glaucoma is sudden closing of the angle leading to a rapid rise in eye pressure. This results in a red painful eye with blurred vision and can cause rapid damage to the optic nerve. It is much rarer but causes greater damage and is considered an eye emergency.

Glaucoma cannot be self-detected. Only an optometrist or an ophthalmologist can determine whether you have glaucoma or not. Optometrists will check your eye pressure and assess your optic nerve for damage. At Shire Optometrists, we recommend imaging as the gold standard for optic nerve assessment and will also perform an assessment of your anterior chamber angle (gonioscopy) and measure your corneal thickness to assess your risk of developing the condition. Visual field testing will establish whether there has been any change in your peripheral or central vision.

The purpose of glaucoma treatment is to lower the pressure within the eye to prevent deterioration of the optic nerves which causes vision loss. It is important to note that while treatment can prevent vision loss, it cannot restore sight already lost to glaucoma, which is why early detection is so important.
While anyone may develop glaucoma, some people are at a higher risk including those with a family history of the disease, people over the age of 50, diabetics, migraine sufferers and those with high spectacles prescriptions. To book your comprehensive eye examination or glaucoma review, with Shire Optometrists, book here.

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