Glaucoma is the name for a group of eye conditions in which the optic nerve (the nerve at the back of the eye) is damaged, often in association with raised pressure within the eye. Initially this results in small blind spots that you are not aware of. As the disease progresses the blind spots enlarge reducing your peripheral vision, and your ability to see clearly. In most cases glaucoma sufferers will experience no symptoms until significant damage has occurred which is why early detection is vital.
Who is at risk from glaucoma?
People aged 40 and over are at greater risk from glaucoma and there is an increasing risk with every decade of life. Those with a family history of glaucoma in close relatives, or in certain ethnic groups (e.g. African-Caribbean people) are considered to have a greater than average risk.
People who are diabetic or very short- sighted are also more prone to glaucoma.
How do we check for glaucoma?
Many people think that the “pressure test” (tonometry) is a definitive test for glaucoma. However this is not the case – a signnificant number of glaucoma patients have a normal pressure. In addition to the “pressue test” we need to examine the optic nerve appearance and check your peripheral visual field.
At Grundy and Naisbitt, Coxhoe, Durham we perform a number of checks for glaucoma during your eye examination:
Slit lamp biomicroscopy – this instrument allows to examine the optic nerve at the back of your eye to check for signs of glaucomatous damage.
Digital retinal photography – we will take a photograph of the optic nerve and store this for future comparison. This allows us to detect any early changes more accurately.
Visual field assessment – testing the field of vision using small points of light to check for blind spots.
Tonometry – measuring the pressure within the eye, either using an instrument that emits a small puff of air onto the surface of the eye, or placing a probe against the eye. If you don’t like the “puff of air” test, our new Icare tonometer enables us to measure your eye pressure without you even noticing – please ask for details.
What can be done?
If we suspect glaucoma, we will refer you to an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) usually at Sunderland Eye Infirmary. If detected early enough, glaucoma can usually be treated. In most cases eye drops to reduce the pressure in the eye will be prescribed, although in some cases an operation is needed.
To aid detection of glaucoma, the College of Optometrists recommends an eye examination every two years, or more frequently if there is a family history of the condition. .
Glaucoma sufferers and certain close relatives are entitled to a free eye examination provided by the NHS. Those diagnosed as being at risk of developing glaucoma are also eligible.
If you have any concerns or queries, please telephone 0191 3770628 to make an appointment at Grundy and Naisbitt in Coxhoe, Durham.