It’s thought that 4.5 million people across the globe are blind because of glaucoma, making it the third highest cause of blindness worldwide.
The eye condition can be difficult to diagnose because symptoms don’t appear straight away – instead, they develop slowly over many years. This means many patients only seek treatment when they notice they’re losing their sight, when significant damage has already occurred.
What causes glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of conditions caused by normal fluid in the eye that hasn’t drained properly. This creates pressure that damages the optic nerve connecting the eye to the brain, resulting in sight loss. Although the causes of glaucoma are not fully understood, factors such as age, family history, racial background and other medical conditions such as diabetes and short-sightedness can increase the risk. It can affect people of all ages, but it’s most common in adults over the age of 60.
What are the different types of glaucoma?
There are different types of glaucoma, and treatment will depend on the type a patient has.
Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of the condition where the channels that drain fluid from the eyes become clogged, causing an increase in pressure. A person may have few warning signs but if caught early, this form of glaucoma generally responds well to medication.
Acute angle-closure glaucoma, which is less common and often occurs in people who have smaller eyes, where blockages are more likely. It causes sudden, intense symptoms that require urgent treatment: medication to lower the pressure is usually needed before surgery can be carried out to correct the issue.
An injury to the eye, illness or taking certain types of medication, such as steroids, can cause secondary glaucoma.