Glaucoma is a condition that affects the optic nerve, damaging it to the point where it leaves your eye. Usually, glaucoma is the result in an increase in pressure in your eye, when the fluid in the front of your eye doesn’t drain away properly. In a normal case, there is a balance in the amount of fluid that is produced and the fluid that drains away, keeping a constant level. But if you have glaucoma, the pressure resulting from the fluid imbalance in your eye can leave you with impaired vision – and even with a complete loss of sight.
But it is not just the fluid imbalance, or ‘ocular hypertension’, that causes glaucoma. In some cases, the optic nerve itself is weak, contributing to the onset of the condition, and glaucoma may even be passed down through family members. Those who suffer from diabetes, or other conditions that restrict blood-flow, are also susceptible to glaucoma, and sufferers in the UK had a 29% increased incidence of systemic hypertension, compared to age and gender controls. Glaucoma is also affected by ethnicity, as those of African or black Caribbean origin are more at risk, with higher chances of being affected earlier in life, and more severely.
For those who suffer from glaucoma, all is not lost, as there is a range of treatment available. At the lower end of the spectrum, corrective contact lenses are available in both soft and rigid forms. Whilst contact lenses are not treatment in themselves, they certainly allow sufferers to go about their daily life in relative comfort. Most eye doctors will also prescribe eye drops for glaucoma, which can react adversely with your contact lenses or the fluids on their surfaces. This can make your eyes intolerant to the lenses, or simply dry them out, making wearing contact lenses very uncomfortable. As always, it’s important to check with your eye doctor.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are medicines available that either help the fluid in your eye drain more easily, or slow its build-up. Surgery is also available, and the most common is laser surgery that opens up the holes in the eyes’ draining system, allowing the fluid to drain. You can have this surgery under local anaesthetic, and be in and out of the hospital in a day. So for those who suffer from a condition that can potentially be so debilitating, the future is incredibly bright.