As we grow older, our eyesight changes naturally. Regular eye tests and suitable glasses will increase the chances of your sight remaining good. If you get the right help and advice, your sight won't stop you from leading a full and independent life.

Glaucoma is one of the most common causes of preventable blindness. It can be picked up as part of a normal eye test and once treatment starts, its progress can be halted.

Here we explain what glaucoma is and how it affects your sight, how certain groups of the population are at particular risk, the simple tests that can lead to its detection and the treatments you may be offered.

Treatment cannot reverse damage already done and is likely to be necessary for the rest of your life… but your sight can be protected if it is picked up in time.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is the name of a group of eye conditions that affect your vision.  Of the many types of glaucoma, chronic glaucoma is the most common. It usually affects both eyes but can start in one eye before the other.

Often in chronic glaucoma the pressure in your eye is higher than it should be and over time this causes damage to the optic nerve at the back of your eye. The optic nerve carries visual information from the light sensitive part of your eye to your brain, where it is translated into a picture. Damage to the optic nerve can affect your sight.

Why does it occur?

Your eye produces a fluid (aqueous fluid) that helps maintain the shape of your eyeball and transports nutrients to your eye.  This fluid is produced by cells behind the coloured part of your eye (the iris) and is not the same as the fluid that forms tears.

Normally the amount of fluid produced is balanced by the amount draining away through special drainage channels. In glaucoma, the balance between the production and draining away of fluid may not be correct.  If the fluid doesn't drain away properly then eye pressure can build up and damage the optic nerve.  Why some eyes don't deal with the balance of fluid properly, is still not clear.

Recognising symptoms of chronic glaucoma

Glaucoma is problematic as it is not painful and there are no symptoms until it is really advanced.
Glaucoma usually starts by affecting your side vision (peripheral vision). You often don’t notice this as your brain can compensate for a large amount of this part of your vision being affected. 

Considerable damage can be done to your side vision before you realise it, so it is important to have regular eye checks that include checks for glaucoma.

If glaucoma isn't caught and treated early - then it can go on to cause fairly serious 'tunnel vision'. Eventually, without treatment, it will also affect your central vision.

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