Glaucoma is a condition that results in damage to the optic nerve which connects the eye to the brain. This causes gradual and permanent vision loss. It is the world's leading cause of blindness.
Symptoms of glaucoma can often be hard to notice as the condition can develop very slowly. However, some types of glaucoma can happen very suddenly.
Glaucoma occurs when pressure builds up in the eye due to excess fluid. This damages the optic nerve and retina nerves, causing permanent sight loss. Older people are at increased risk of developing glaucoma. Early treatment is essential and can slow its progress or stop it getting worse.
There are four types of glaucoma. The symptoms that you experience will often depend on the type of glaucoma that you have. Chronic open-angle glaucoma is generally the most common form of the condition and has very few noticeable symptoms because it develops slowly. With this form of glaucoma, your side vision (known as your peripheral vision) is affected first and then your central vision.
Acute angle-closure glaucoma happens very rapidly and has very severe symptoms. These include severe pain, headaches, redness in your eyes, seeing halos around lights and losing your vision very suddenly.
Secondary glaucoma is often caused by other conditions like uveitis, and so it can be easy to confuse symptoms.
Developmental glaucoma is a rare condition that affects babies.
Glaucoma happens when drainage tubes in your eye become blocked and pressure builds up. This pressure then damages your optic nerve (which sends visual information to your brain), resulting in serious and permanent vision loss.
It isn't known for sure what causes these drainage tubes to become blocked but a number of factors can increase your risk of developing the condition. Age is thought to play a role, with older people being more at risk. Having a family history of glaucoma can increase your risk of the condition, as can your ethnic origin and if you have an underlying medical condition, like diabetes.
Early treatment is key to stop glaucoma from causing permanent damage to your vision. Treatment is designed to reduce the pressure in your eye to a safe level.
Eye drops are usually prescribed to help treat the condition. The type you receive will depend on the type of glaucoma you have and its severity.
Sometimes, a surgery called a trabeculectomy will be performed to help ease the pressure in your eye. This is performed under general anaesthetic and involves removing a very small section of the blocked tubes in your eye to let the blockage drain away naturally.
In some cases, laser treatment can also be used to treat glaucoma.