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Elderly vision loss: glaucoma types, tests and treatments

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This week marked National Glaucoma Awareness Week, a country-wide initiative that aims to reduce rates of elderly vision loss by raising awareness and funds for new treatments.

Organised by the International Glaucoma Association, this year's event called on older people to get checked for dry eye syndrome. This condition affects 50–60% of people with glaucoma, and approximately one in three people over 65 across the country.

In honour of this event, we've prepared a short guide to glaucoma types, tests and treatments.

The most common types of glaucoma

The three types of glaucoma that most commonly cause elderly vision loss include:

  • Primary open angle glaucoma: The most common form of glaucoma, this condition develops gradually over a number of years as the eye's drainage channels become blocked.
  • Acute angle closure glaucoma: A much less common condition, this form of glaucoma is caused when drainage channels are blocked quickly, leading to a rapid build-up of pressure.
  • Secondary glaucoma: Another less common variant, secondary glaucoma is a symptom of other eye conditions, such as uveitis (eye inflammation).

Find out more about the symptoms of glaucoma, and the effects of this condition on older people.

Tests and treatments for preventing elderly vision loss

Now you know more about common types of glaucoma, let's take a look at the tests and treatments that can help prevent elderly vision loss:

Testing

Glaucoma is notoriously difficult to detect. Though it typically develops slowly, you might not see any warning signs until the symptoms become apparent.

The NHS recommends you have a routine eye test at an opticians at least every two years. Here, your optometrist will carry out a number of quick tests that help detect glaucoma at the earliest possible stage.

These tests aren't invasive and you won't experience much discomfort. You'll probably have a vision test, and the pressure inside your eye will be measured.

You can get tested completely free of charge if:

  • you're over 60
  • you're aged 40+ and have a family history of glaucoma, or
  • you receive Pension Credit Guarantee Credit

Should your tests suggest you have glaucoma, your doctor will refer you to an ophthalmologist to commence treatment.

Treatments

It's crucially important that you start treatment at the earliest possible stage, as this can help prevent elderly vision loss.

Unfortunately, once glaucoma begins to cause sight loss, this damage cannot be repaired using surgery.

Your doctor will develop your treatment programme based on the type of glaucoma you have (in addition to other factors). They will have three main options:

  • Eye drops: Your doctor can prescribe a course of eye drops that help to reduce the build-up of pressure in your eyes.
  • Laser treatment: Your doctor can recommend that you undergo laser treatment, which will help to clear congested drainage tubes and/or reduce fluid production.
  • Surgery: Your doctor can advise you to undergo surgery, which should help your eyes drain fluid more effectively.

Your doctor will monitor you throughout and after your treatment to see how effective it's been, and check to make sure the condition hasn't returned.

Now you know more about glaucoma types, tests and treatments, make sure you're taking relevant steps to get checked. This can help prevent elderly vision loss and help you maintain the best possible quality of life for longer.

If you'd like to find out more about how live-in care helps support older people with vision loss, speak with our friendly team.

 

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