Hundreds of people could be in danger of going blind from glaucoma.

Glaucoma, also known as the silent thief of sight due to its gradual onset, is one of the largest causes of blindness in the world.

It can affect people of all ages but the most common in adults is those in their 70s and 80s.

Specsavers in Watford is highlighting the importance of looking after our sight as part of glaucoma awareness week (June 17-June 23).

We've also taken information from the NHS website to help compile this article.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an eye condition where the optic nerve which connects the eye to the brain becomes damaged.

This is usually caused by a build up fluid in the front part of the eyes which increases pressure inside the eye.

A Specsavers optician in Watford, Aftab Sham, said: “There are several factors which can increase your risk of developing glaucoma such as a family history of the disease.

“Other risk factors would include those who have black-African or Asian heritage as well as those who have higher levels of short sightedness.

“Of course, age also needs to be considered as two in every 100 people over the age of 40 are affected with the condition”

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

What are the symptoms?

Mr Sham adds: “With the most common form of glaucoma, visual loss is initially very subtle, affecting mainly the peripheral vision rather than central, which can make it harder to notice.

“Most people are not even aware there is any visual loss because of the way the eyes’ visual fields overlap to compensate for one another.

“Some forms of glaucoma are more rapid with a sudden painful build-up of pressure in the eye which produces blurred vision and haloes around lights, but they are less common.”

Other symptoms are:

  • Intense eye pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A red eye
  • A headache
  • Tenderness around the eyes
  • Seeing rings around lights
  • Blurred vision

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

What types of glaucoma are there?

The most common type of glaucoma is primary open angle glaucoma which tends to develop slowly over many years caused by the drainage channels in the eye becoming gradually blocked over time.

Others include:

  • Acute angle closure glaucoma, an uncommon type caused by the drainage in the eye becoming suddenly blocked raising the pressure inside the eye quickly.
  • Secondary glaucoma caused by an underlying eye condition.
  • Childhood glaucoma a rare type that occurs in very young children caused by an abnormality of the eye.

How can I avoid it?

If you’re concerned about glaucoma, visit your opticians or GP.

It is important to attend regular check-ups to check for any signs. They will test your eye pressure to find a sign of high pressure linked to glaucoma.

They will also do a visual field test which can detect any subtle blind spots which might be a telling sign of the condition.

Chief Executive of the International Glaucoma Association (IGA) Karen Osborn said: ‘We regularly hear from people who have permanently lost sight to glaucoma because of late diagnosis.

“People are often angry and upset to learn that simple regular visits to their local high street optometrist could have detected the condition.

"The earlier treatment starts, the more likely that someone will retain useful sight for life, so it’s great that so many Specsavers stores are on board with Awareness Week.”

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

What is the treatment?

Mr Aftab added: “The good news is glaucoma can generally be treated effectively if detected early, and in most cases, daily eye drops are used.”

Treatment depends on the type of glaucoma that you have, other treatments include:

  • Laser treatment which helps to open-up the blocked drainage tubes or reduce the production of fluid in your eyes.
  • Surgery to help improve the drainage of fluid.