Glaucoma refers to a group of eye diseases in which the optic nerve, which connects your eye to your brain, is usually damaged by increased fluid pressure inside your eye. Damage to the nerve can result in issues with your peripheral vision (side vision), which worsens irreversibly if left untreated. Experienced in one or both eyes, glaucoma is one of the leading causes of severe sight impairment. However, while there’s no cure, when glaucoma is detected early on it can be treated easily and effectively.
There are two types of glaucoma: chronic glaucoma (open angle), which develops slowly, and acute glaucoma (closed angle), which occurs more suddenly. Taank’s Head Optometrist, Anjana Taank, is specially trained in this condition and works closely with Addenbrooke’s Hospital’s Glaucoma Clinic based in Cambridge.
Who’s at Risk of Glaucoma?
In short, anyone can develop glaucoma. That said, your risk increases if you’re:
- Over 40
- Very short-sighted
- Of African or Caribbean origin
- Closely related to someone with the condition
- Experiencing raised pressure in your eye (ocular hypertension (OHT))
- Diagnosed with high blood pressure
If you’re experiencing any of the above symptoms book an eye exam with our Head Optometrist, Anjana Taank. Note that if a close relative has glaucoma and you’re over 40, the NHS will fund your eye exam.
Symptoms of Chronic Glaucoma
The chief challenge with chronic glaucoma is that there are no early stage symptoms. It happens so gradually that you may be unaware that your peripheral vision is being damaged. Regular eye exams are the only way of identifying chronic glaucoma early on, before it permanently affects your vision.
Later stage chronic glaucoma impacts your long tunnel vision, slowly reducing the peripheral vision leaving central vision. Unfortunately, once damage occurs it can’t be restored.
Diagnosing Chronic Glaucoma
The optician will use three main tests to determine whether you have chronic glaucoma. They will typically be:
- Inspect your optic nerve: Using an ophthalmoscope, or shine a slit lamp into your eye. They may also take a photograph to establish a baseline of your condition for future exams.
- Measure your eye pressure: You’ll recognise this as the machine that blows a puff of air into your eye. Alternatively, the optometrist may use a contact tonometer and local anesthetic to obtain an intraocular pressure reading.
- Test your visual field: To determine your peripheral as well as central vision.
Treating Chronic Glaucoma in Cambridge
If you’re diagnosed with chronic glaucoma during an eye exam, your optometrist or optician will refer you to an ophthalmologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital’s Glaucoma Clinic. Taank Optometrists also runs a referral refinement service for Addenbrookes so you may be referred to us for further investigation.
You’re likely to have more tests and then if your diagnosis is confirmed will probably be prescribed eye drops by the Ophthalmologist to use on a daily basis. The drops reduce eye pressure and control fluid build-up. A small number of patients benefit from an operation to drain the fluid, but drops are the most common treatment.
The important thing here is that because you won’t notice any obvious difference, you’ll need to make sure you attend follow-up appointments and keep on using the drops as prescribed.
What is Acute Glaucoma?
Acute glaucoma happens when the drainage channels in your eye become blocked or damaged, causing the pressure in your eye to elevate rapidly.
Symptoms of Acute Glaucoma
The discomfort associated with the increased pressure may come and go. Some people will experience short bursts of pain, headaches and blurred vision. This can happen more when your pupils are dilated so you’re likely to notice it at night or when you’re in a dark space like a cinema. Other symptoms include an eye ache, redness, nausea, headaches, seeing coloured halos around lights, or feeling as though you’re looking through a haze or mist.
Treating Acute Glaucoma in Cambridge
If you have the above symptoms, this is a medical emergency and you must visit your local A&E department immediately so they can reduce the pressure and alleviate pain. Drops and tablets, sometime intravenous drugs, work to quickly reduce the pressure. Laser treatment or surgery are other options that will enable the fluid to flow through the eye more efficiently.
Will I be able to drive with glaucoma?
Glaucoma affects your peripheral vision, so you’ll need to notify the Drivers and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA). You may be required to take some additional tests, but most glaucoma patients are able to keep driving.
How often should I have an eye examination?
If you are at risk of glaucoma, you should have an eye examination annually so that we can perform the necessary screening tests.