Glaucoma and Glaucoma treatment
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma refers to a number of eye conditions where the optic nerve is damaged. This is usually caused by a build-up of fluid in the front of the eye, which increases the pressure within the eye. Vision lost to glaucoma cannot be recovered, but early diagnosis, treatment and monitoring can help to prevent further damage and retain sight for a long period of time.
Glaucoma can affect people of all ages but is most common in adults in their 70s and 80s. It is one of the world’s leading causes of blindness, and in the UK around 2% of people over 40 have this condition.
Glaucoma symptoms and treatment
In its early stages, glaucoma has no symptoms and develops very slowly over the years. The first part of vision to be affected is the peripheral vision. Many people do not realise that they have glaucoma and it is spotted on a routine eye test.
If you do have symptoms, they may include seeing rainbow coloured circles around lights or blurred vision.
Although rare, glaucoma can develop rapidly and will cause the following symptoms:
Pain around the eye and within the eye
Seeing rings around lights
Blurred vision Nausea and vomiting
When should I seek medical advice?
If you have any concerns about your eyes, you should see an optician or your GP to begin with. Early diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma is important to help prevent your vision deteriorating.
If you suddenly develop glaucoma symptoms, this is a medical emergency and you should go to A&E or an eye casualty unit as soon as possible.
What causes glaucoma?
In most cases, glaucoma is caused by a build-up of pressure because fluid is unable to drain properly. This pressure increase damages the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain. We don’t always know why this happens, but there are some things that can increase the risk:
Age – Glaucoma is more common as you get older
Ethnicity – There is a higher risk in people of Asian, African or Caribbean origin
Family history – If you have a parent or sibling with this condition, you’re also more likely to develop it
Other medical conditions – People with Diabetes, Short-sightedness and Long-sightedness are more at risk of developing glaucoma
There is not much you can do to prevent glaucoma, but it is important to have regular eye tests to diagnose it as early as possible. If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, you will be referred to a specialist eye doctor such as myself, for treatment.
Glaucoma Treatment in the UK
Whilst it’s not possible to reverse any vision loss that has occurred, there are treatments available to prevent your vision deteriorating.
The type of treatment you receive, depends on the type of glaucoma that you have. However, the options are:
Eye drops – these reduce the pressure in your eyes
Laser Treatment – this will either open up the blocked drainage tubes or reduce the production of fluid in your eyes.
Surgery – this will improve the drainage of fluid and reduce the pressure in the eyes
There will also be regular appointments to keep checking your condition and making sure that the treatment is working.
Eye Drops for Glaucoma
Eye drops are used as the regular treatment for glaucoma and work by reducing the pressure in your eyes. They are prescribed to be used up to 4 times a day and it is important for you to follow the instructions very regularly.
Glaucoma Laser Treatment
In rare cases, eye drops and laser treatment are not effective, therefore surgery is recommended. The most common glaucoma surgery is called trabeculectomy and removes part of the drainage tubes in the eye to allow fluid to drain.
This surgery can be carried out either under local or general anaesthetic. Most patients no longer need eye drops after surgery and you should have minimal pain after the procedure.
There are other types of glaucoma surgery that can be carried out:
Trabeculotomy – This is similar to a trabeculectomy, but an electric current is used to remove a part of the drainage tubes
Viscocanalostomy – This operation includes removing part of the white outer covering of the eyeball so fluid can drain more easily
Deep Sclerotomy – In this operation, the eye’s drainage tubes are widened, sometimes with the use of a small device
Trabecular Stent Bypass – A small tube is placed in the eye to help increase fluid drainage
In rare cases, eye drops and laser treatment are not effective and therefore surgery is recommended. The most common glaucoma surgery is called trabeculectomy and removes part of the drainage tubes in the eye to allow fluid to drain. This type of surgery can be carried out either under local or general anaesthetic. Most patients no longer need eye drops after surgery and you should have minimal pain after the procedure.
In general, most patients can return home the day after surgery. You will need someone to drive you home and may have medications or eye drops to take.
Your eye/s might be watery and red, and vision may be blurred after surgery, but this should rectify itself within 6 weeks. I will discuss with you which activities you can partake in during recovery. Usually, patients are advised to keep the eye dry and avoid driving, reading and strenuous activities for at least a week.
If you require glaucoma treatment in Scotland, please get in touch for a consultation.