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  • Writer's pictureKim Rasmussen

What is glaucoma?

Updated: Apr 11, 2022

Glaucoma is a common condition that affects the eyes, it occurs when the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain becomes damaged. This damage is often caused by increased pressure within the eye, generally, as a result of a build-up of fluid (either through overproduction or reduced outflow), causing gradual vision loss [1].

According to the World Health Organisation glaucoma is now the second leading cause of blindness globally, after cataracts.

However, what makes glaucoma more concerning, and a greater risk to those who are diagnosed, is that the damage caused by the condition is irreversible and there is currently no cure [2]. The damage usually takes a very long time to be noticed by the patient, hence it is sometimes termed ‘the silent thief of sight'.

Types of glaucoma

Despite there being several different types of glaucoma, the most common form of glaucoma, accounting for about 90% of all cases, is primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG). This type of glaucoma is a result of the slow clogging of the drainage canals in the eye, or alternatively due to overproduction of aqueous (the circulating fluid within the eye). Both cause the pressure in the eye to gradually increase and as this build-up of pressure happens very slowly it can therefore often go unnoticed.

The second main type of glaucoma is angle-closure, which is caused by drainage canals that are completely blocked (normally by the iris being pushed forwards) resulting in a sudden rise in pressure in the eye. Angle-closure glaucoma develops quickly and there are clear symptoms that make it easier to detect.

Symptoms of glaucoma

As the effects of most types of glaucoma are often very gradual, you may not even realise you have the condition because of how slowly your eyesight deteriorates. However, depending on the type and stage of the condition there can be warning signs. Seeing patchy blind spots in peripheral or central vision could be a symptom of open-angle glaucoma and are certainly a reason to see your optometrist. Very occasionally, glaucoma can also develop quickly; in these cases, one may experience intense eye pain, nausea, headaches, blurred vision, and/or tenderness around the eyes.

Research conducted by the National Eye Research Centre has estimated that 3.2 million people in the United Kingdom will be affected by glaucoma.

However, what can be seen as more worrying is that almost 2 million will not have been diagnosed and will therefore not receive the necessary treatment to slow down the damage caused by glaucoma [3]. This research just reinforces the importance of getting an annual eye exam especially if you are over the age of 40.

Glaucoma Treatment

The earlier that potential glaucoma is identified, the more can be done to stop the deterioration of vision. Whilst existing damage cannot be treated, it is possible to reduce the impact of further deterioration. Options here include eye drops, oral medication, laser therapy, surgery, or a combination of any of these. The main aim is to reduce the intraocular pressure within the eye and improve drainage to prevent future build-ups of fluid.

At Occuity we are using our knowledge of optics to develop a novel confocal scanning technology, which is already protected by 9 international patents and enables the measurement of a suite of parameters through the eye that can be used for accurate measurement of both the physiological and chemical changes that are associated with disease progression.

The Occuity PM1 Pachymeter

Our first product displaying this technology will be the Occuity PM1, the world’s first handheld, non-contact optical pachymeter. A device that makes the measurement of intraocular pressure (pressure in the eye) more accurate. This will assist in the earlier, faster, and more accurate diagnosis of glaucoma and therefore subsequent treatment options.

To discover the PM1 and the rest of our innovative product pipeline click here.

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