5 signs you might have glaucoma

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness in the world, but contrary to popular belief it can be treated if it is caught early enough. While it is true that around 10 per cent of 80-85 year olds suffer glaucoma with the number growing exponentially as the population ages, it is less known that up to 50 per cent of sufferers remain undiagnosed as it remains asymptomatic until the damage is too far gone to treat effectively.

People with a family history of glaucoma are up to ten times more likely to develop the disease and other major risk factors include diabetes and short sightedness. In the lead up to World Glaucoma Week (Sunday 6-Saturday 12 March), one of Australia’s leading glaucoma experts Dr Andrew White from PersonalEYES, is urging over 60s to go for bi-annual check ups, as an early diagnosis can prevent long-term damage, and be treated if detected early enough.

Glaucoma is a condition impacting peripheral vision, causing irreversible blindness and making patients more susceptible to falls, which can be life threatening in the elderly. The good news however is that early detection can mean prevention of the disease progressing and most people are unaware they can request a glaucoma test with their standard eye test.

Here are 5 signs you might have glaucoma from PersonalEYES, Australia’s leading network of eye care clinics:

  1. Family history. If anyone in your family is undergoing treatment for glaucoma or has just been diagnosed, this should be a prompt to get your own eyes tested as you are up to ten times more likely to develop glaucoma. Your risk of developing the disease does go up with age so it is imperative to get regular checks as you get older.
  2. Unusual sensitivity to light or glare. A number of vision problems can present in the late stages of glaucoma with sensitivity to light and glare, or rainbow-coloured circles around bright lights just one of them. Halogen lights mainly used as car headlights, and fluorescent lights mainly seen in offices, shops or doctors’ rooms are the most common lights that can bring on this uncomfortable sensation for sufferers. Noticing halos around lights or having eye pain when looking at lights can be a sign of acute angle closure or very high pressure in the eye which can lead to a rapidly blinding glaucoma.   
  3. Existing condition such as diabetes, sleep apnoea, or more. If you suffer from diabetes, sleep apnoea, migraines or myopia (short sightedness), you could be more at risk of developing glaucoma as several studies have linked these conditions to glaucoma.
  4. Loss of peripheral vision or blind spots. If you are unable to see what’s happening out of the far corners of your eyes or blind spots in your vision which may seem as simply as not noticing specific parts of the visual world, it could be a sign that you have glaucoma. You could be tripping over objects more often than before or having accidents or near misses while you are behind the wheel, driving through intersections or roundabouts when it’s unsafe to do so, not seeing cars pulling out of spots, and not seeing pedestrians start to walk out on to the zebra crossing. Just one of these incidents could mean that you have lost some of your peripheral vision without realising it.
  5. No symptoms. The majority of people have no early warning signs or symptoms of glaucoma.  The condition can develop slowly over many years, destroying vision gradually and not presenting noticeable symptoms until the later stages. Treatment cannot recover lost vision but can arrest, or at least, slow down the progression of further damage, thus making regular eye checks imperative. A quick check can mean you’re out and about, and enjoying life to your full ability.