Glaucoma is one of the growing causes of vision impairment and blindness in the UK.
It is an irreversible and progressive optic nerve disease, marked by elevated pressure inside the eye (IOP – high intraocular pressure).and the gradual loss of vision. If this eye condition is left untreated, the increased pressure within the eye can lead to optic nerve damage resulting in progressive, permanent vision loss, starting with unnoticeable blind spots at the edges of the field of vision, progressing to tunnel vision, and then to blindness.
Normally, a clear liquid called aqueous humour passes through the pupil and drains through a special membrane called the trabecular meshwork. However, in open-angle glaucoma, this fluid becomes blocked, much like a sink that cannot drain, leading to increased pressure in the eye.
Too much abnormal pressure damages the optic nerve, which can eventually lead to blindness.
There are two main types of Glaucoma:
Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma. The “open” drainage angle of the eye can become blocked leading to gradual increased eye pressure. The optic nerve damage and vision loss usually occurs so gradually and painlessly that you are not aware of trouble until the optic nerve is already badly damaged.
Angle-closure glaucoma occurs when the drainage angle of the eye narrows and becomes blocked, causing a dangerously high eye pressure. The symptoms may include severe eye pain, blurred vision, headache, rainbow haloes around lights, nausea and vomiting, but angle closure also often occurs without symptoms. Unless treated quickly, blindness can result.
Symptoms do not always occur that warn of the irreversible optic nerve damage being done. But the following warning signs do indicate that you need a thorough examination by an eye doctor:
- Unusual trouble adjusting to dark rooms
- Difficulty focusing on near or distant objects
- Squinting and unusual sensitivity to light or glare
- Change in colour of iris
- Red-rimmed, encrusted or swollen lids
- Recurrent pain in or around eyes
- Double vision
- Dark spot at the centre of viewing
- Lines and edges appear distorted or wavy
- Excess tearing or “watery eyes”
- Dry eyes with itching or burning
- Seeing spots, ghost-like images
Early detection and treatment are the keys to preventing optic nerve damage and vision loss. You can find out more about your treatment options here.
A cataract is a cloudiness or opacity in the normally transparent lens of the eye.
This cloudiness can cause a decrease in vision, and if untreated it may lead to blindness. Cataracts are a relatively common eye condition, usually slow to develop and more prevalent in older age groups. Age is the most common element in the development of cataracts, though there are many other factors that can contribute, For example, injury to the eye, underlying health conditions such as diabetes, and genetic predisposition.
Cataracts are treated by replacing the damaged lens with a new artificial lens. In the vast majority of cases this is a straightforward ‘outpatient’ surgical procedure under local anaesthetic that takes 30-40 minutes. You can find out more about your treatment options here.
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
When you develop Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) you lose the ability to see fine details, both close-up and at a distance.
This affects only your central vision, and your side, or peripheral, vision usually remains normal. For example, when people with AMD look at a clock, they can see the clock’s outline but cannot tell what time it is; similarly, they gradually lose the ability to recognise people’s faces.
There are two types of AMD. Most people (about 75%) have an eye condition form called “early” or “dry” AMD, which develops when there is a build-up of waste material under the macula and thinning of the retina at the macula. Most people with this condition have near normal vision or milder sight loss.
A minority of patients with early (dry) AMD can progress to the vision-threatening forms of AMD called late AMD.
The commonest form of late AMD is “exudative” or “wet” AMD. Wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the retina. These unhealthy vessels leak blood and fluid, which can prevent the retina from working properly. Eventually the bleeding and scarring can lead to severe permanent loss of central vision, but the eye is not usually at risk of losing all vision (going ‘blind’) as the ability to see in the periphery remains. You can find out more about your treatment options here.
Please contact Professor Gus Gazzard here to book an appointment or further information.