Help and frequently asked questions

What are the causes of glaucoma?


Glaucoma is a common form of eye disease that affects the optic nerve from the eye to the brain. It can lead to permanent vision loss and blindness if not detected and treated early.

What causes damage to the optic nerve?

For most people, damage to the optic nerve comes from increased pressure in the eye, or from the blockage of the circulation of aqueous humour or its drainage. Others may find that poor blood supply to the optic nerve fibres or a weakness of the nerve is to blame. It can also be caused by a problem in the health of the nerve fibres themselves.

What are some common forms of glaucoma?

Primary open-angle (OAG) is the most common form of glaucoma in Caucasians. This is where the aqueous humour, or clear liquid in the inside of the front of your eye, does not drain properly. This can result in increased pressure and damage to the optic nerve. Angle-closure glaucoma (ACG) is the most common amongst people of Asian descent. It is where pressure in the eye rapidly increases as the iris blocks the drain. This can occur suddenly. If you experience pain, nausea, blurred vision or eye redness, seek immediate medical attention. Any delay could result in permanent visual damage. Congenital glaucoma can exist at birth or develop later. If your baby or child is sensitive to light or has enlarged, cloudy eyes that water excessively, it is essential to seek a professional opinion.Secondary glaucoma can be the result of injuries, cataracts or diabetes. Glaucoma without high eye pressure, or normal tension glaucoma is another form of this disease. It is characterised by progressive optic nerve damage and loss of peripheral vision, even though eye pressure is normal.

Is glaucoma hereditary?

Glaucoma often runs in families and the risk of developing this condition increases with age.

What are the risk factors for glaucoma?

As well as the genetic link, you are at a higher risk of developing this condition if you are over 40 and short-sighted.Diabetics and those with hypertension face an increased risk, as do those who have had a serious eye injury or who have used steroid treatments for an extended period of time. Using an asthma inhaler is not as risky as taking steroids by mouth. However, if you are concerned, it is best to have your eyes checked by an optometrist. Do not change the dosage of your inhaler without speaking to your GP.

What should you do if you have high risk factors for glaucoma?

If you fit into these groups, it is essential to have your first eye check by the age of 35. Others can wait until they are 40.

Can you have Clarivu for cataracts if you have glaucoma?

Clarivu is a cataract operation that is an alternative to glasses and laser surgery. Having acute glaucoma could complicate the surgery, so it is best to discuss your individual case with a surgeon before proceeding. Your optometrist may be able to refer you to someone who can help.