Glaucoma is an eye disease in which the optic nerve, which connects your eye to your brain, is damaged by the pressure of the fluid inside your eye.
There are two main types of glaucoma:
Chronic glaucoma, which happens slowly
Acute glaucoma which happens quickly
Chronic glaucoma is much more common than acute glaucoma.
Who is at risk of chronic glaucoma?
Anyone can develop chronic glaucoma. The risk of developing chronic glaucoma increases if you:
• are aged over 40
• are very short-sighted
• are of African or Caribbean origin
• are closely related to someone with chronic glaucoma
• have raised pressure within your eye. This is called ocular hypertension (OHT).
There are three main tests to see if you have chronic glaucoma. The first one is where your optometrist looks at the nerve at the back of your eye using an ophthalmoscope, or a slit lamp to shine a light into your eye. They may also take a photograph or a scan of the nerve. This can be useful for future visits, to help them see if things have changed.
The second test is where the optometrist measures the pressure inside your eye. This may be done by using a machine which gently blows a puff of air at your eye, or by numbing your eye with drops and then gently pressing an instrument called a tonometer against it. The tests do not hurt, although the puff of air may make you jump a bit.
The third test is where the optometrist tests how wide your visual field is – how far you can see around you when you are looking straight ahead.
Cataracts are formed when the clear lens inside your eye becomes cloudy or misty. This is a gradual process that usually happens as we get older.
This involves removing the cloudy lens (the cataract) and replacing it with a clear plastic one. If you have cataracts in both eyes, surgery will normally be carried out on one eye at a time.
What does cataract surgery involve?
You will have an initial appointment where the ophthalmologist will assess and measure your eyes.
Most cataract operations are done using a local anaesthetic. You will be awake, but the ophthalmologist will make sure you do not feel the area around your eye. You will hear the ophthalmologist explaining what they are doing, and you may see some vague movements around your eye. The ophthalmologist will make a tiny cut in your eye to remove the cataract and will normally insert a plastic replacement lens so that you can see clearly. This will usually take around 15-45 minutes.
After the operation
You will be given eye drops to use for the first few weeks after your operation. You should avoid heavy lifting and strenuous exercise immediately after the operation, but you can carry on with most other activities around the home as normal. Nearly all of your vision will return within two days of surgery and many people are able to return to their usual daily routine 24 hours after the operation. You should avoid eye makeup, swimming, and getting soapy water in your eyes when you wash your hair for two weeks after the operation.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q. WHY DO CATARACTS OCCUR?
A. The main cause is age and most people will eventually develop a cataract in both eyes, although one eye may be affected before the other. However, smoking and exposure to sunlight have been linked to the formation of cataracts.
Q. WILL CATARACTS AFFECT MY VISION?
A. Many people with a cataract notice that they need to change the prescription for their glasses. You may notice that your vision is less clear and distinct.
Q. CAN I PREVENT CATARACTS?
A. There are various supplements on the market which claim to help slow the progression of cataracts and some eye drops have been marketed as a treatment for them. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that any of these can prevent or treat cataracts. To try to prevent cataracts, or to stop them getting worse, wear good quality sunglasses with UV protection and don’t smoke.