National Glaucoma Awareness Week: What you need to know

Glaucoma affects more than 64 million people worldwide, and is the leading cause of irreversible blindness. According to recent statistics about glaucoma, it is estimated that by 2020 there will be 11.2 million people worldwide who are fully blind as a result of glaucoma. Moreover, it’s estimated that up to 50% of people in the UK who have the condition are not aware that they have it.

National Glaucoma Awareness Week takes place this year from 12th-18th June, and is organised by the International Glaucoma Association. This year’s awareness campaign focuses on eye pressure and its link to glaucoma, which many people are not aware of. Read on below to find out more about the causes of glaucoma, its symptoms and how it can be diagnosed and treated during a routine eye test. 

What is glaucoma?

The word glaucoma does not describe one condition, but rather a group of conditions which are characterised by damage to the optic nerve. This damage is usually caused by a rise in intra-ocular pressure (IOP), the pressure inside the eye. This damage can cause blurred vision, pain, nausea and even blindness. This might sound very daunting, but the good news is that glaucoma can be diagnosed early if you have regular eye tests, and it is often receptive to treatment.

There are two categories of glaucoma, the most common of which is open angle glaucoma. This occurs when the drainage canals in the eye become clogged with fluid over time, causing pressure to build up as the fluid cannot drain away. This pressure can damage the eye, cause pain and ultimately affect vision. The second, rarer category of glaucoma is angle-closure glaucoma, also known as acute glaucoma or narrow angle glaucoma, which develops when the space between the iris and the cornea is unusually narrow. This means that fluid cannot pass through this space and becomes blocked, causing inner eye pressure to rise sharply and damage to occur as a result.


Symptoms of glaucoma

During National Glaucoma Awareness Week, it’s important to educate as many people as possible about the signs and symptoms of glaucoma. Many people do not experience any symptoms at all until their glaucoma is advanced, which is why it is important to have regular eye tests regardless of your symptoms. If you or anyone you know experiences the following symptoms, be sure to have an eye test as soon as possible in order to check for glaucoma. The sooner treatment can start, the less damage the glaucoma will do to the eye. Some signs of glaucoma include:

  • Loss of peripheral vision

  • Hazy or blurred vision

  • Severe eye and head pain

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Seeing rainbow circles around bright lights.

As many cases of glaucoma present with no symptoms until they are in their advanced stages, it is important not to rely on the appearance of these symptoms when considering the possibility of glaucoma. The only way to be sure of whether you have glaucoma is to attend regular eye tests every two years, or annually if you are at a higher risk of developing the condition. Risk factors include being over age 40, having a family history of glaucoma, being short-sighted and having diabetes.

Glaucoma treatment

There are a variety of different treatments for glaucoma. The first treatment option offered to sufferers is usually eye drops, which can be used as a lifelong treatment to relieve the pressure in the eye. In cases where this is not effective, or where patients seek a more permanent solution, laser eye surgery can be considered. There are several different types of laser eye surgery available for glaucoma treatment, including:

  • Argon Laser Trabeculoplasty (ALT) – for open-angle glaucoma

  • Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) – for open-angle glaucoma

  • Cycloablation – for open-angle glaucoma

  • Laser Peripheral Iridotomy (LPI) – for angle-closure glaucoma

As well as these modern laser eye surgery methods, there are a number of traditional surgical techniques available. Here at Optegra, our ophthalmic surgeons are highly trained and experienced with treating glaucoma, and they’ll be able to advise on the best treatment option for your needs. All treatments are performed under local anaesthetic, so you don’t need to worry about feeling any pain during surgery.

Our glaucoma monitoring service

At Optegra, we offer a bespoke glaucoma monitoring service. If you’ve been diagnosed with glaucoma, this service can help to identify any potential risks and developments, so they can be treated as soon as possible. This service is available to people who are at risk of developing glaucoma, as well as patients who have already been diagnosed.

The glaucoma monitoring service is available at our eye hospitals in North London, Manchester and Hampshire. Get in touch with your local hospital to find out more. 


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