A recent survey by Specsavers, in partnership with the RNIB, has revealed that five people will live with sight loss in their lifetime despite at least half of all cases being avoidable.

Following these alarming statistics, Bury St Edmunds store director, Marc Mitchell shares his advice on how to watch out for one of the most common eye conditions, glaucoma. 

What is glaucoma?

There are lots of different types of glaucoma, but the most common in the UK is ‘chronic simple’ and ‘chronic open angle’ glaucoma. It is an eye condition where the optic nerve, which connects your eye to your brain, becomes damaged. It can lead to loss of vision if not detected or treated early on. 

Who is most prone to the condition?

This is a condition that gets progressively more common later in life. The number of people in the UK known to have the condition is 2% over the age of 40.

This rises to about 5 or 6% over the age of 75. If you have a family member who suffers from glaucoma, particularly immediate family such as a sibling, your chance of having it rises – your lifetime risk is about 20%. 

How can I detect it?

Unfortunately, the biggest problem with chronic glaucoma is in its diagnosis. There are no symptoms to the condition until it’s too far along. What happens in most people is that the pressure in the eye rises above the pressure it should be and, over a period of time, this damages the nerve in the back of your eye.

When the nerve is damaged you then get damage to your side vision, ‘the peripheral visual field’. To begin with, it is unnoticeable as it mimics having blank patches in your vision, where your brain fills in the gaps.

Gradually, these blank patches enlarge and progress towards your central vision and, as a result, that vision can be affected in the later stages of the disease. 

How do you detect glaucoma in store? 

There are a number of ways we can detect the condition. We can measure interocular pressure and, if that is raised, we would then do further tests and possibly refer you on to another professional for treatment.

We also look at the back of the eye at the optic nerve head in all of our regular sight tests, where we can see if there are any specific changes of glaucoma, along with visual field tests. 

How is it treated? 

Once diagnosed by a professional, the general treatment for glaucoma is eye drop therapy. All patients that are advised to do this must continue to use them until advised otherwise by that professional. Often, these drops are needed permanently to ensure the condition does not get any more severe. 

If you are concerned that you or someone you know is suffering from an eye condition, book a sight test – they generally take 20 minutes and could save your sight.

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