Did you know, selected Specsavers stores provide a range of additional eyecare services to help maintain the health of your eyes. And because these services are delivered on behalf of the NHS, there is no cost to you.
We’re partnering with the International Glaucoma Association (IGA) to help raise awareness and avoid preventable sight loss. Glaucoma has no early symptoms but advanced glaucoma can lead to loss of vision. If detected and treated early, most people will retain useful sight for life.
What is it?
Glaucoma can affect sight, usually due to a build up of pressure within the eye or the eye being more prone to damage from pressure. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that affect the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain. It often affects both eyes, usually to varying degrees. One eye may develop glaucoma quicker than the other.
Types of glaucoma
There are various types of glaucoma including:
- chronic glaucoma – this is the most common type of glaucoma and develops very slowly
- acute glaucoma – this is rare and may develop rapidly with a sudden, painful build-up of pressure in the eye. Other symptoms may include blurred vision and haloes around lights.
How common is it?
In England and Wales, it's estimated more than 600,000 people have glaucoma but many more people may not know they have the condition.
Risk factors for glaucoma include:
- A family history of the disease
- Age - chronic glaucoma (see right) affects up to two in every 100 people over 40 and around five in every 100 people over 80
- Higher levels of short sightedness
- Raised pressure in the eye which is called ocular hypertension (OHT)
You are also at increased risk of developing chronic glaucoma if you are of black-African or black-Caribbean origin. Acute glaucomas are much less common. However, people of Asian origin are more at risk of getting this type of glaucoma compared with those from other ethnic groups.
What causes it?
The eyeball contains a fluid called aqueous humour which is constantly produced by the eye, with any excess drained though tubes. When the fluid cannot drain properly, this causes a build-up of pressure in the eye known as the intraocular pressure.
Glaucoma develops when this increased pressure damages 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).
In acute glaucoma cases this pressure rises rapidly to higher levels, causing pain.
Glaucoma can be treated but early detection is important. If left untreated, glaucoma can cause visual impairment and damage that cannot be reversed. But if it's detected and treated early enough, further damage to vision can be minimised or prevented.
If you have chronic glaucoma, it can take a long time before you realise you have a problem with your eyesight. This is because chronic glaucoma is painless and usually damages the outer edge of the vision and works slowly inwards. Without regular checks you may not notice a problem until the glaucoma is near the centre of your vision.
So regular eye tests are essential. You should have an eye test at least every two years or more frequently if advised by your Specsavers optometrist. For example, they may suggest you have more frequent eye tests if you have a close relative with glaucoma, such as a parent, brother or sister.
Acute glaucoma is rare but usually painful often accompanied by blurred vision and haloes around lights. If you get these symptoms it is important to seek immediate assistance Contact your optician, NHS 111 or local Accident and Emergency department.
Even if the symptoms go away you should contact your optician as soon as possible as repeat episodes can cause damage to your eyesight.
Tests for glaucoma
There are several tests that can be carried out by your Specsavers optometrist in addition to the usual examinations carried out during an eye test. They are painless and quite quick. They include:
Eye pressure test (tonometry)
An instrument called a tonometer is used to measure the pressure inside your eye – intraocular pressure. Tonometry can be useful to identify ocular hypertension (OHT – raised pressure in the eye), which is a risk factor for chronic open-angle glaucoma.
Visual field test
You will be shown a sequence of light spots and asked which ones you can see. Some dots will appear in your peripheral vision, which is where glaucoma begins. If you can't see the spots in your peripheral vision, it may indicate the glaucoma has damaged your vision.
Optic nerve assessment
Your optic nerve connects your eye to your brain. This can be assessed in a variety of ways during your examination and it is also photographed using a retinal camera. Digital retinal photography (DRP) captures an image of your optic nerves which can be used as reference for future visits and to track any changes that may occur over time.
If your Specsavers optometrist suspects glaucoma, you will be referred to an ophthalmologist for further tests. If the ophthalmologist confirms a diagnosis of glaucoma, they will also be able to explain:
- how far the condition has developed
- how much damage the glaucoma has done to your eyes
- what may have caused the glaucoma
They will then be able to advise on treatment which in most cases is simply an eye drop used on a daily basis coupled with regular follow-up appointments.
Drops may be used to examine your eyes in a glaucoma appointment – these can temporarily affect your vision. Please check when making the appointment if you will be able to drive immediately after the appointment.
Many Specsavers stores can also help you manage more complex eye health conditions, such as pre and post cataract surgery care, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. In selected stores, these services are delivered on behalf of the NHS, so there is no cost to you.
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