What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a term that describes a group of eye conditions that affect vision where raised pressure in your eye causes damage to the the optic nerve (which connects the eye to the brain) and the nerve fibres from the retina (the light-sensitive nerve tissue that lines the back of the eye). Glaucoma often affects both eyes, usually in varying degrees. There are four main types of glaucoma:
  • chronic open-angle glaucoma – this is the most common type of glaucoma and develops very slowly. It is often painless with no obvious symptoms until the condition is fairly advanced.
  • primary angle-closure glaucoma – this is rare and can occur slowly (chronic) or may develop rapidly (acute) with a sudden, painful build-up of pressure in the eye
  • secondary glaucoma – this occurs as a result of an eye injury or another eye condition, such as uveitis (inflammation of the middle layer of the eye)
  • developmental glaucoma (congenital glaucoma) – this is rare but can be serious. It is usually present at birth or develops shortly after birth. It is caused by an abnormality of the eye
Glaucoma can be treated with eye drops, laser treatment or surgery. However, early diagnosis is important because any damage to the eyes cannot be reversed. If left untreated, glaucoma can cause visual impairment but if it is diagnosed and treated early enough, further damage to vision can be prevented. Anyone can develop glaucoma but you are at a higher risk if you are aged over 40 and you have a direct relation (parents, siblings or children) who has glaucoma. You are also at increased risk of developing open-angle glaucoma if you are of black-African or black-Caribbean origin. Attending regular optician appointments will help to ensure any signs of glaucoma can be detected early and allow treatment to begin.