Glaucoma and Eye Health – Why Are Eye Tests So Important?


What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma, also known as the “silent thief of sight”, describes a group of eye conditions that affect vision. It has a gradual onset and causes damage to the optic nerve, usually due to increased pressure in the eye. This can lead to misty and patchy vision which worsens if left untreated. In rare cases, it can lead to loss of central vision.

The IGA estimates that 2% of people over 40 years old in the UK suffer from glaucoma. Most people have a slow developing form of the condition and it’s estimated that 50% of cases (over 300,000 people) remain undiagnosed and are unaware that they could be losing their sight. It’s the leading cause of blindness globally, affecting 600,000 people in the UK and more than 64 million people worldwide.

There are four main types of glaucoma: primary open angle, primary angle closure, secondary, and developmental. To find out more about each type, please visit the IGA’s page on ‘Types of Glaucoma’.

Keeping an eye on eye health – eye tests

“Once eyesight is lost, it cannot be recovered…”

People lose their sight for many other reasons. In fact, someone in the UK begins to lose their sight every 15 minutes. For this reason, regular eye examinations are extremely important. They can pick up glaucoma before considerable deterioration in sight occurs. It also gives the opportunity for timely intervention and management of eye health conditions and for most people, useful sight can usually be maintained throughout life.

Men are at a greater risk of losing their vision than women. Research by the City University showed that men are more likely to ignore warning signs and to not seek medical attention for eye health. Thus, men are 16% more likely than women to suffer advanced vision loss on diagnosis of glaucoma.

It’s recommended that everyone over 40 see an optician for an eye test every two years. This is particularly important if you meet any of the following risk factors:

  • You have a close relative with glaucoma (parent, sibling, child)
  • You are African-Caribbean or Asian origin
  • You have diabetes
  • You have low blood pressure
  • You are short sighted.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, people aged 40 and over who have close relatives of people with glaucoma are entitled to a free sight test and examination by an NHS optometrist. Everyone aged 60 and over is entitled to free testing. For Scottish residents, the NHS will pay for glaucoma examinations, regardless of age.

Eye tests will check your vision straight ahead, as well as your peripheral vision. A simple eye test can also detect a range of eye conditions, including:

  • Glaucoma
  • Cataracts
  • Macular degeneration
  • Ocular hypertension
  • Dry eye
  • Inflammation of the cornea

They can also detect signs of other conditions, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Thyroidtoxicosis
  • Acute-immune disorders
  • Pituitary tumours
  • Raised cholesterol
  • Shingles

Treatments for glaucoma typically include eye drops and tablet to help regulate eye pressure. You may also be recommended a laser procedure or surgery, such as an aqueous shunt implantation or a trabeculectomy.

National Glaucoma Week 2017

This year, National Glaucoma Week was between Monday 12 to Sunday 18 June 2017. The International Glaucoma Association (IGA) is focusing on eye pressure and its link to glaucoma. The #GetEyeWise campaign is calling for all people, especially those over 40 who have a relative with glaucoma, to get their eye pressure checked.

National charities

The International Glaucoma Association (IGA)

Set up in 1974, the IGA is the world’s oldest patient based glaucoma charity and supports people with glaucoma in England, Wales, and Ireland. Its mission is to raise awareness of glaucoma, promote research for early diagnosis and treatment, and to provide support to patients and their carers.

Their telephone helpline, sightline, provides free information on glaucoma and is open Monday to Friday, 9.30am-5.00pm on 01233 648 170.

To find out more, please visit

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)

The RNIB supports everyone affect by sight loss – that’s over 2 million people in the UK. They’re here to help you whether you’re losing your sight or you’re blind or partially sighted. Their aim is to make daily life better for people affected by sight loss and provide practical and emotional support to help you face the future with confidence.

Find out more by visiting their website –


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