People commonly search the internet for questions surrounding a condition, illness and/or any medical-related information in the hope of self-diagnosis. However, more often than not, the information found online is too generalised, inaccurate or may point to a condition completely unrelated to the person in question’s query.
In this article, we’re going to be looking at some of the most commonly asked questions surrounding glaucoma to shed light on this condition. The information acquired to help write this article was obtained during an interview with Gokulan Ratnarajan, an ophthalmic consultant and Glaucoma surgeon at The McIndoe Centre.
First, let’s detail the different types of glaucoma.
1. What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a disease which effects the eye, specifically the optic nerve. This is the nerve that connects the eye to the brain, allowing impulses to be sent to the brain which then interprets them as images. When the optic nerve is damaged, pressure can build in the eye which leads to poor drainage, effecting the patient’s vision.
2. What are the Most Common Glaucoma Types?
The main types of glaucoma are: Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma, Secondary Glaucoma and the most common, Open Angle Glaucoma. While there may seem to be various types of glaucoma, the symptoms of each condition remain similar, mainly in that each type causes your eyesight to deteriorate.
Open Angle Glaucoma (OAG) is thought to be the most dangerous because it can be very difficult to spot. It’s also known as the ‘silent thief of sight’. OAG is caused when your eye’s drainage system (or channels) become blocked over time, leading to a build-up in pressure. Spotting OAG early is essential, which is why every medical body strongly encourages patients to have an eye check-up once every one or two years to make sure your eyes are in healthy condition.
Secondary Glaucoma differs to OAG as it is characterised by an underlying problem. An example of Secondary Glaucoma would be if a patient’s eye was inflamed and therefore caused Secondary Glaucoma, whereas other types of glaucoma aren’t caused by previous eye conditions.
Acute Angle Glaucoma (AAC) is a less common form of glaucoma which happens when the fluid in your eye becomes blocked swiftly and suddenly. This can be a serious concern as it causes the pressure inside the effect eye to increase at a very fast rate. AAC will require immediate medical attention because of how swiftly it’s able to cause vision impairment.
3. What are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?
The symptoms are often difficult to identify until the disease is in its advanced stages, hence it’s alternative name ‘the silent thief of sight’. However, while symptoms are hard to spot, having regular eye check-ups can help identify glaucoma and therefore apply appropriate medication to help prevent it worsening.
4. How do you Treat Glaucoma?
The most common way to treat glaucoma is by using eye drops. This is the treatment you will be prescribed upon first diagnosis. The second stage of treatment usually involves more advanced methods, such as laser treatment or surgery – but this is primarily used in the advanced stages of the disease. However, glaucoma treatment has seen vast improvements over the last few years, with glaucoma operations becoming safer and less invasive.
5. Is there Any Way to Prevent Glaucoma?
Starting treatment as early as possible will help keep glaucoma from worsening over time. If it is caught early, treatment options are available, but there are currently no treatment options that reverse the effects of glaucoma.
6. What Age do People Commonly Encounter Glaucoma?
Glaucoma becomes more common as you age, but it can strike at any time. Children are also at risk, but it is rare. The condition is known as Congenital Glaucoma and it’s caused by an abnormality of the eye. This type of glaucoma is usually diagnosed within the first year of a child’s life and the most common cause is the child’s eye failing to develop properly. Similarly, Congenital Glaucoma can be inherited.
7. How Common is Glaucoma?
In the UK alone, there are thought to be around half a million people suffering with glaucoma. Shockingly, there are many more who have not been diagnosed, let alone treated for it. This is one of the core reasons why it’s become the most common cause of blindness across the globe.
If you, or one of you friends or family members are worried about the effects of glaucoma, be sure to visit your local eye clinic for a check-up. They are painless and only take between 10-20 minutes, unless other tests are required. Treatments for glaucoma are constantly being developed and we advise that you have regular eye check-ups at least once a year to ensure your eyes remain in a healthy condition.