What is glaucoma and how does it affect you?

Glaucoma is the name for a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve, the nerve which carries information from the eye to the brain. When this vital nerve is damaged, there is a high risk that you might lose your vision. Glaucoma is one of the most common causes of legal blindness in the world. At first, people with glaucoma lose their peripheral vision and if it goes untreated, vision loss may get worse leading to total blindness over time.

There are no obvious symptoms of glaucoma like most other health conditions apart from the gradual loss of vision and as such, it’s important to have regular eye tests to check for glaucoma especially if there’s a family history of the condition. Symptoms also vary for the type of glaucoma, for example, chronic open-angle glaucoma will cause loss of peripheral field vision but because the peripheral field loss of open-angle glaucoma happens so gradually, the individual usually does not notice.

People suffering from acute-angle closure glaucoma on the other hand, will experience the sudden onset of throbbing pain and redness in the eye, headaches, blurred vision, halos around lights, a dilated pupil and sometimes nausea and vomiting. This type of glaucoma is a medical emergency and should be treated immediately. If not treated, it may result in severe permanent loss of vision or blindness.

Infants can also suffer from developmental or congenital glaucoma, showing signs like watery eyes, sensitivity to light, and eyelid spasms. A larger cornea and clouding of the normally transparent cornea may also be noticed. The baby may habitually rub the eyes, squint or keep the eyes closed much of the time. If you notice any of these symptoms you should consult your GP or an optician as soon as possible!