Worried that your eye symptoms may indicate a serious problem?
We are so reliant on our eyes – and yet it is so easy to take them for granted until there is a problem.
The best thing we can do for our eyes is to have a regular eye check with an optometrist – once every two to three years until age 65, and then annually.
Your optometrist will look for early signs of problems, including glaucoma – which can lead to permanent vision loss if it is left untreated.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is when the optic nerve is damaged, usually as a result of abnormally high pressure inside the eye. The damage occurs gradually over a long period of time and symptoms may not appear until the glaucoma is well advanced.
It’s important to get a diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible, as glaucoma can be managed but vision loss can’t be reversed.
There are several different types of glaucoma, the most common are open-angle glaucoma and acute closed-angle glaucoma.
Often most patients with early glaucoma will not have symptoms. Because of this the only way to diagnose glaucoma is by having a comprehensive eye test with an optometrist.
If you have any concerns about your eyesight, you should arrange an optometrist appointment. If they suspect you may have glaucoma, they will refer you to an ophthalmologist for further tests to confirm the diagnosis and discuss treatment options.
The symptoms of open-angle glaucoma can include loss of peripheral vision and difficulty adjusting to low light.
People with acute closed-angle glaucoma may experience headaches, eye pain, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting and eye redness.
If you are a member of the Automobile Association you may be able to get a free eye test as part of your membership. That test will also look for signs of glaucoma which may require further examination.
You should always seek urgent medical advice if you experience severe headaches, eye pain or blurred vision.
Who and how?
Glaucoma can develop in anyone at any age, but is more common in older people, and is a leading cause of blindness for people over the age of 60.
There are some risk factors which may make it more likely you will experience glaucoma. These include:
- family history of glaucoma
- aged 40 +
- significant short or long sightedness
- long term use of steroid medication
- history of migraines
- previous eye injury
Low blood pressure is more likely to lead to glaucoma than high blood pressure.
You can ask your optometrist to refer you to St George’s Eye Care, where you will be seen by one of our two highly experienced ophthalmologists.
Unfortunately there is no cure for glaucoma. Treatment focuses on slowing or preventing vision loss.
St George’s Eye Care treatment options include:
- Medication with eye drops to help lower pressure within the eye and prevent further damage to the optic nerve.
- Laser treatment to improve drainage from the eye and hence lower the pressure.
- Surgery to insert a very small tube in the eye to help drain fluid from the eye and reduce pressure.
Your ophthalmologist will discuss which treatment option is best suited to your condition.
Glaucoma normally requires life-long monitoring.