Though it is one of the most common eye conditions, glaucoma is very difficult to spot without a full eye examination. 2% of people over 40 are affected; this rises to 10% of people over 80.
Untreated, glaucoma can lead to blindness due to the pressure of fluids within the eye causing weakness to the optic nerve. This nerve carries the visual information to the brain, without it, nothing is seen.
The condition normally affects both eyes but usually at different rates. And because the progress can be quite slow the damage is unnoticed until an advanced stage is reached.
There are two main types of glaucoma, the rarer acute version, which is when the pressure rises quickly and dramatically, causing symptoms of headaches, eye pain and blurred vision (and possibly haloes around lights). The more common chronic version has no symptoms, and can only be detected at an eye test, where the changes may be identified when compared against previous records.
Glaucoma checks are advised for everyone, especially as you get older, but some people are at higher risk – if a close family member already has glaucoma, or you are diabetic, a smoker, or have short-sightedness then your chances are greater. Afro-Caribbean and Asian backgrounds also heighten the risk.
Early diagnosis is important because treatment tends to be more effective, for most sufferers, a simple eye drop used daily can control the pressure (though sometimes a tablet or surgery is needed). And even though the DVLA have to be informed of the condition, the vision can remain strong enough to allow many years of driving.
Unfortunately any lost vision cannot be recovered, but there are a few things that we can do to mitigate the development of glaucoma. Vitamin E, green tea, omega 3 and even dark chocolate (just tell them it’s medicinal) are all thought to be of benefit as well as exercise which is known to lower eye pressure.
Visit C.R. Williams Opticians in Coventry expert advice about living with the condition and preserving your eyesight.