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Glaucoma is a disease that affects the optic nerve in the eye. It’s often caused by a build-up of fluid that puts pressure on the nerve.

Glaucoma progresses slowly and may not cause noticeable signs until it’s quite advanced. At this point, you might experience issues with your sight, particularly in the peripheral field of vision. If unmanaged, glaucoma can cause tunnel vision and even blindness.

If you are concerned about your eyesight, book a consultation with an experienced consultant ophthalmologist, who will be able to discuss potential treatment options with you.

What is the optic nerve?

The optic nerve is the nerve that connects your retina (at the back of your eye) to your brain. It transmits visual information so that your brain can process it and you can see.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a disease that causes fluid to build up in the eye, putting pressure on the optic nerve. This build-up can happen over time without a clear cause (primary open angle glaucoma), can happen quickly (acute angle closure glaucoma), or it can be caused by another condition in the eye (secondary glaucoma).

There is also a condition called normal tension glaucoma, which is when your eye is more susceptible to normal levels of pressure.

What are the symptoms of glaucoma?

Glaucoma can be asymptomatic, which means you might not be aware that you have the disease until it starts to cause issues with your eyesight. You might experience blurred vision, sensitivity to light or sight loss at the periphery of your vision.

If you have noticed a change in your sight, it’s important to get a diagnosis so that you can manage your condition and prevent further sight loss.

What can increase your risk of glaucoma?

Primary open angle glaucoma affects approximately 2% of over 40s in the UK. It is more common amongst older people. There are several other risk factors for glaucoma, including blood pressure, ethnicity and having a family history of the disease.

How is glaucoma diagnosed?

When you book an appointment with an ophthalmologist, they will want to check how much pressure there is on the eye. While an optometrist may use the ‘puffing test’ to screen for glaucoma, we use a gentle test known as Goldmann tonometry.

Your consultant may also test your visual field and want to do a scan. At Sulis Hospital, we have invested in the latest technologies, which enable us to look at the optic nerve in great detail.

Your glaucoma treatment questions answered.

Glaucoma may be treated with eye drops, which can help to reduce eye pressure. It is also possible to use laser treatment on the tissue in the eye to help it drain fluid more easily.

However, if these treatments are not successful and your eyesight continues to worsen, there are a variety of surgical options that may be appropriate. For example, your consultant may recommend a trabeculectomy, which is surgery to drain the fluid in your eye.

Trabeculectomy is often referred to as the gold-standard surgery for glaucoma. While it won’t restore your lost sight, it can help to prevent further sight loss. It involves creating a small hole (or new pathway) for the fluid to drain out of the eye.

The surgery can take over an hour, so it is usually performed under a general anaesthetic. However, it may be possible to use a local anaesthetic in the eye instead.

At Sulis Hospital, we’ll make sure you’re fully prepared ahead of surgery. Our friendly team are always on-hand to answer any questions you might have about your trabeculectomy.

You may be asked to stop taking certain medications or to go without food on the morning of your surgery. You will need to arrange for someone to drive you home from the hospital. Your consultant or GP will be able to advise you on when it might be safe for you to drive again.

Most patients can go home on the same day as their surgery. However, in some instances, your consultant may wish to keep you at the hospital overnight.

Your consultant will discuss their recovery expectations with you, including when it will be safe to resume specific activities.

For example, most people find they can return to work after around two weeks, but it may be longer before you can do other activities such as swimming or lifting heavy objects.

It’s important to recognise that glaucoma can progress and cause sight loss and blindness if left untreated. Of course, no intervention is without risk. For a trabeculectomy, risks can include bleeding, ongoing issues with eye pressure, too much fluid draining from the eye (low pressure), infection and the formation of cataracts.

There may be other risks associated with a trabeculectomy that are not listed above. Your consultant will discuss the risks with you ahead of surgery and make sure you are fully prepared.

You may be covered by private medical insurance, or you may wish to consider spreading the cost of your surgery by opting for a monthly payment plan.

We aim to make our costs as transparent as possible, but it’s important to talk everything through in detail with your consultant at the time of your appointment. Some costs may be paid directly to the hospital, while others, such as your consultant fees, may be paid directly to the consultant.

Issues affecting your eyesight will understandably cause concern, which is why we aim to make sure our patients can see a consultant ophthalmologist as quickly as possible.

With investment in the latest scans and tests, Sulis Hospital provides an excellent environment for eye patients. Our consultant ophthalmologists are highly experienced and regarded, providing the reassurance you get from speaking to a specialist. Get in touch today to book your appointment.

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