Keeping an Eye on Glaucoma: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

May 11, 2022 | Eye Health

As part of our mission to raise awareness about eye conditions, so you can sport the signs, be aware and seek treatment, this blogpost will be discussing the eye condition, Glaucoma. 

With an estimate of 480,000 people in the UK with the eye condition, this blogpost will be discussing what the symptoms of glaucoma are, and the advancement in treatment that allows people to live a high quality of life and keep their vision. 

What is Glaucoma?  

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that lead to damage of the optic nerve, which functions as a key component in clear vision. The damage is typically caused by increased intraocular pressure, which essentially means pressure in the eyes. 

The types of glaucoma include: 

Open-angle glaucoma 

The most common type of glaucoma, open-angle glaucoma develops slowly as the drainage canals in the eyes become clogged. This leads to intraocular pressure. Thoe with open-angle glaucoma don’t experience noticeable symptoms until vision-loss has already occurred. This is why it is important to visit the opticians regularly.  

Angle-closure glaucoma 

This type of glaucoma is less common. It occurs when the drainage angle in the eye becomes blocked suddenly, causing a rapid increase in intraocular pressure. Angle-closure glaucoma can cause sudden symptoms like severe eye pain, headache, blurry vision, and even nausea/vomiting. 

Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial in managing glaucoma because, once vision is lost, it cannot be restored. Vision loss occurs at the periphery of our vision, while central vision remains unaffected at this early stage, and it tends to affect one eye more than the other.  

What are the misconceptions about Glaucoma?  

It only affects the elderly 

Yes, glaucoma may be more common in older individuals, but it can impact people of all ages, including children and adults.  

It causes immediate vision loss 

Glaucoma is a gradual deterioration of the vision. Once the vision deteriorates, it is not possible to cure the vision that has already been lost, however, the remaining vision can be saved with treatment.  

Good vision means I don’t have glaucoma 

Even individuals with seemingly good vision can have glaucoma. Regular eye exams are essential to detect it before significant vision loss occurs. 

Glaucoma can be cured 

Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for glaucoma. Treatment options aim to manage and slow the progression of the disease, but any vision loss that has already occurred is irreversible. 

Once you start treatment, you can stop 

Glaucoma is typically a lifelong condition, and the treatment may need to be continued indefinitely to manage it effectively. Stopping treatment without medical guidance can lead to a resurgence. 

Who is at risk of glaucoma? 

If you fall into any of the following categories, your risk of glaucoma may be higher. Contact an eye doctor for an appointment before glaucoma causes irreversible nerve damage.  

  • Over the age of 60 
  • Have a family history of glaucoma 
  • Suffer from diabetes or high blood pressure 
  • Previous eye injuries or eye surgeries 
  • You have myopia (near-sightedness) 
  • Prolonged steroid use 

What is the first sign of glaucoma? 

Glaucoma doesn’t exhibit early noticeable symptoms, especially in its most common form, known as open-angle glaucoma. In the early stages of open-angle glaucoma, there may be no apparent signs or symptoms. Vision remains relatively normal, and the condition progresses slowly.  

In some cases, such as acute angle-closure glaucoma, there can be sudden and severe symptoms, including eye pain, headache, blurred vision, halos around lights, nausea, and vomiting. 

By the time patients experience symptoms like vision loss or peripheral vision problems, the disease has often already advanced significantly, underscoring the importance of early diagnosis through routine eye exams. 

This is why regular eye exams and glaucoma eye tests are crucial for detecting the disease so opticians can identify signs of the disease and implement rapid treatment before any further development.  

What are the glaucoma treatments? 

Although there’s no cure for glaucoma yet, it’s possible to slow or potentially halt further damage with effective treatment. The vast majority of newly diagnosed people will retain reasonable sight levels forever, providing their condition is identified early enough by a trained optometrist.  

Glaucoma treatments focus on reducing intraocular pressure to manage the condition and prevent vision loss. The choice of treatment depends on the type of glaucoma, its severity, and the patient’s overall health.  

Doctors will typically start with eye drops, however, if eye drops alone are insufficient, they may move on to oral medications. Some patients may also benefit from laser therapy. If these are still inadequate, a microsurgery may be necessary.  

Glaucoma Care with Edinburgh Optician RC Cunning  

Eye tests often provide the first evidence of glaucoma’s onset, since our staff can examine peripheral vision and painlessly measure pressure within the eye.  

We will discuss your sight and vision, asking pertinent questions about common symptoms like light haloes or cloudy vision. 

If you want an eye test to assess the health of your eye, visit our Penicuik or Edinburgh optician branch. Book your appointment here.