The countdown to National Eye Health Week (24th-30th September) has begun, marking a significant time for the optical world. We see this as our chance to fulfill our duty as opticians and reiterate how incredibly important maintaining good eye health and having regular vision checks are for monitoring and addressing any changes, or new eye conditions.
This is also your chance to change any bad eye habits for the better, address that niggling eye issue that you’ve been neglecting, or simply investigate new solutions from your opticians to help with any current issues.
This year, we’re homing in on the symptoms, causes and 5 ways to prevent the onset of an eye condition that is known as the ‘silent thief’ of vision: Glaucoma.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness, often creeping up without warning or any symptoms until you have already started to lose your peripheral vision. It is classified as a group of diseases that damages the optic nerve with high pressure of fluid in the eye. There are two main types of glaucoma, chronic, which occurs gradually over time, and acute – a sudden onset of the disease.
According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, about 60 million people in the world are estimated to have glaucoma, with half that number not even realising that they suffer from the condition.
Glaucoma: Causes and Symptoms
Primary Open Angle Glaucoma is considered the most common type of chronic glaucoma, caused by the gradual clogging of drainage channels in the eye, building up pressure on the optic nerve.
Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma is less common and can be attributed to sudden blockage of drainage in the eye, leading to a rapid increase in eye pressure.
Although it is unclear why this happens, research has shown that you are most at risk of developing the disease if you:
- Are aged 40 and above
- Are very short sighted
- Are long sighted
- Suffer from diabetes
- Have African, Caribbean and East or South Asian ethnicity
- Have a family history of glaucoma (parents or siblings)
Although this disease can creep up on you silently, there are a few glaucoma symptoms that you can keep an eye out for, including:
- Blurred peripheral vision
- Intense eye pain that comes and goes
- Red eyes
- Nausea and vomiting
- Tenderness around the eyes
- Coloured rings around white lights
Glaucoma Prevention: Our Top 5 Solutions
Although, glaucoma is a serious eye disease that could compromise your vision, there are things that you can try to do to prevent it or catch it in its early stages. We’ve compiled our top 5 prevention methods for you – find out what you can do to help your eye health below!
The first and best method of prevention is to make sure you have your routine eye test at least every two years before the age of 40. After that, depending on any symptoms of cause for concern, you should try to have your eye test done every year.
Most glaucoma cases are detected through an eye test at your opticians before it even causes any noticeable symptoms for you. Our fully comprehensive glaucoma eye test includes various assessments, including measuring eye pressure with a tonometry test, a field of vision test, and more. You can find out more on our Glaucoma Assessment page here.
Find out whether glaucoma runs in your family and following confirmation, ensure that you get a dilated eye test for glaucoma every 1-2 years, as recommended by your optician.
If you do have a family history of glaucoma, you become 3 times more likely to get the disease. If you are 40 years or above with a family history of glaucoma, you will also be entitled to a free eye test through the NHS.
If you are diabetic, monitor your blood sugar levels regularly. Individuals with higher blood sugars are generally more likely to develop higher eye pressures, which could potentially contribute to forming the disease.
Although high blood sugar levels as a glaucoma risk factor is controversial, analysis of data from across the world has made it a universally accepted cause of the condition.
Exercise! We love it and we hate it, but the positive effects it has on our health can’t be denied. Studies have shown that exercising in moderation, i.e. jogging or walking three or more times a week can lower eye pressure.
Be careful if attempting an activity like yoga though, as headstands and any positions that make blood rush to your head could increase pressure in the eyes.
Eating healthily and giving your eyes the nutrition that they need can play an important role along with all the other factors in preventing glaucoma. Dark green, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables have carotenoids which help to defend against glaucoma, whilst drinking too much caffeine can causes a raise in eye pressure, lasting more than an hour.
So, make sure you include plenty of spinach, citrus fruits, sweet potatoes and any other foods that contain lutein, xeanthin, zinc and Vitamins A, E and C in your diet!
What Happens Next? Glaucoma Treatment
If any tests during your routine eye exam show signs of glaucoma, your optician will then refer you to a specialist doctor to examine it further and recommend glaucoma treatment for you.
Treatment cannot bring back any lost vision due to the disease, but it can help to prevent any further deterioration. Depending on the type of glaucoma you have, treatments could range from prescribed eye drops to lower eye pressure, to laser treatment to remove any blockage to drainage channels or reduce fluid retention, or surgery to make drainage more efficient.
It is extremely important that you stick to the recommended treatment plan from your specialist and keep up with regular check ups afterwards to monitor your condition.
Getting Your Comprehensive Glaucoma Test in London
We are proud to have fully qualified and experienced opticians who can carry out your fully comprehensive glaucoma eye test. Rest assured that our knowledge and state of the art equipment for monitoring such conditions will make the process of checking, diagnosing and taking further action as smooth and quick as possible, leaving you with a chance to save your vision.
Remember, National Eye Health Week 2018 is your chance to really turn your eye health around for the better- don’t ignore the facts and start looking after your eyes today!
If you have any concerns or would like advice about glaucoma or your eye health, contact our friendly team on 0207 831 0032 (Holborn) or 0207 600 9861, or make an appointment online at our Holborn or Masons Avenue branch.