Fact: Glaucoma is the number one cause of preventable blindness in developed countries, but what is it, and what causes it?
Glaucoma actually refers to a group of diseases which affect the optic nerves in the eye. As the nerve fibres die, it impacts a person’s peripheral (side) vision first. This is why visual loss can be extensive before the problem is detected, at which any damage done is often permanent.
What Causes Glaucoma?
At the back of the eyeball is the optic nerve, and this carries signals from the eye to the brain and back again. Glaucoma damages this vital nerve – much like cutting the cable that connects your digital camera to your computer. Except the optic nerve can’t be repaired, so the damage is permanent.
Eye pressure is also an important risk factor for developing glaucoma. Basically, healthy eyes have some pressure within them, but if the pressure is too great it can cause glaucoma.
What are some of the Symptoms of Glaucoma?
If you have any of the following warning signs of glaucoma, you should make an appointment with your doctor or optometrist as soon as possible for a thorough examination.
- Difficulty focusing on near or distant objects
- Change in colour of your iris
- Trouble adjusting to the dark
- Unusual sensitivity to light (squinting more than normal for example)
- Red-rimmed, encrusted or swollen lids
- Persistent pain in or around eyes
- Double vision
- A dark spot “in the middle” of your eye
- Lines and edges appear wavy or distorted
- Watery eyes, or excessive tearing
- Dry eyes, burning or itchy eyes
- Seeing ghost-like images or spots
Am I at Risk of Glaucoma?
High eye pressure is the main risk factor for glaucoma, but you could also be at risk if you have a family history of the disease, if you are diabetic or if you have cardiovascular disease. Your risk also increases with age.
Additional risk factors include:
- Previous eye injuries
- Use of steroids
- A thin cornea
- A history of severe anaemia or shock
Can Glaucoma Be Treated?
Regular eye tests are the most important factor in treating glaucoma, as it’s easy to detect and the disease can be managed. Treatment largely includes lower pressure in the eye to prevent any further loss of vision.
It’s important to remember that with early detection and treatment, people with glaucoma can maintain good vision for the rest of their life. If you’re worried about any eye-symptoms, why not ask our doctors? Simply sign up on our website. download the free Hello Doctor app from the Google Play or iTunes store. They can give you the best possible advice, so you know exactly what to do next.