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What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye conditions which can cause vision loss. Glaucoma occurs when the tubes that normally drain fluid from the eye become blocked. Glaucoma often affects both eyes but it may develop and progress at a quicker rate in one eye compared to the other.

Signs and symptoms

You may not notice any symptoms at all as the condition develops very slowly. People often do not realise their sight is being affected until quite a lot of damage has been done. This is because glaucoma firstly affects your side vision and your central vision can compensate for this loss.

What causes Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is usually caused by a blockage in the part of the eye that allows fluid to drain from it. This can lead to a build-up of fluid and pressure in the eye and can damage the optic nerve.

It's often unclear exactly what causes it, although there are some things that can increase your risk, including:

  • your age – glaucoma becomes more likely as you get older and the most common type affects around 1 in 10 people over 75
  • your ethnicity – people of African, Caribbean or Asian origin are at a higher risk of glaucoma
  • your family history – you're more likely to develop glaucoma if you have a parent or sibling with the condition

Help and support

It's not clear whether you can do anything to prevent glaucoma, but having regular eye tests will help ensure it's picked up as early as possible. It is important to get your sight checked every 2 years if you are under 70 and every year if you are 70 or over. In Scotland you are entitled to a free eye test once every 2 years if you are between 16 and 59 years old and once a year if you are over 60.

Glaucoma is often treated with eye drops. It is important to use eye drops correctly to get the maximum benefit from them so always follow their instructions carefully. If eye drops prove to be ineffective in treating your glaucoma a different treatment may be recommended. Laser treatment can be used to unblock the blockages in the drainage tubes. Surgery is also available as a treatment for glaucoma

Useful contacts

Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) provide information, advice and support for people affected by sight loss.
Helpline: 0303 123 9999 or visit

International Glaucoma Association
The International Glaucoma raise awareness of glaucoma, promote research related to early diagnosis and treatment, and provide support to patients and all those who care for them.
Helpline: 01233 64 81 70 or visit

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