Glaucoma affects over 500,000 people in England and Wales with many unaware they even have the condition. Catching the disease early is the best way to stop sight loss, making it vitally important for everyone to have an eye examination every two years.

With World Glaucoma Week (March 12-18) in full swing, we’ve asked Hayes store director and eyecare expert Irinder Khakha to help dispel the common myths around the disease.

Glaucoma's the name of a country in Germany, isn't it?

If only it were that nice! Glaucoma is actually an eye condition where the optic nerve (connecting the eye to the brain) becomes damaged when the natural fluid in the eye cannot drain properly. As this nerve carries sight information from the eye to the brain, the increased pressure inside the eye compresses the optic nerve, which, although painless and very rare, if left undetected and untreated can cause misty and patchy vision with eventual blindness.

That doesn’t sound fun.

No, not the most fun you could have. There are various types of glaucoma, including:

  • chronic glaucoma – developing very slowly and affecting the peripheral vision first, this is the most common type of glaucoma.
  • acute glaucoma – this is rare and develops rapidly with a sudden, painful build-up of pressure in the eye. Other symptoms may include blurred vision and haloes around lights.

Ok, Ok, well Glaucoma is a disease for old people; I'm not at any risk from getting it.

Actually Glaucoma can affect people of all ages. It’s most common in adults; however, risk factors include:

  • A family history of the disease
  • Age – glaucoma is most common for people in their 70s and 80s
  • Higher levels of short sightedness
  • Ocular Hypertension (OHT) - raised pressure in the eye

Further risk factors for chronic glaucoma include:

  • Age - chronic glaucoma affects up to two in every 100 people over 40 and around five in every 100 people over 80
  • Black-African or black-Caribbean origin are also at increased risk of developing chronic glaucoma

Further risk factors for acute glaucoma include:

  • Asian origin are at more risk of getting acute glaucoma

Gosh, I don't have time to go to hospital to have it diagnosed. How will I know if I have it?

Glaucoma doesn’t usually have any noticeable symptoms to begin with, making detection only possible through a fundus camera during a routine eye examination with an optometrist. There are several quick and painless tests which Specsavers optometrists carry out during routine eye examinations, including measurements of the pressure inside your eye and tests of your peripheral vision.

The name sounds scary, I bet treatment is long and severe.

Glaucoma treatment depends on various factors, including, how far the condition has developed, how much damage the glaucoma has done and what has caused the glaucoma.

While there is no treatment to restore sight loss caused by glaucoma, treatments, such as eye drops and laser surgery, can stop vision getting worse and help prevent sight loss. For a small number of people with glaucoma (about five per cent) eye drops and laser treatments are not successful in keeping the eye pressure stable. In these cases, surgery may be an option to improve the drainage of fluid from your eyes.

Once glaucoma is detected, regular appointments are essential to monitor the condition and ensure treatment is working.

Specsavers eye examinations detect a range of indicators caused by Glaucoma and many other diseases as part of their regular eye examinations. Diagnosis and management of glaucoma is at the forefront of Specsavers eye examinations and we have rolled out a training scheme to ensure our optoms have undergone their level two WOPEC by March 2017 to offer enhanced eye exams.

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