Glaucoma is today's most common cause of preventable blindness in the UK and mainly affects people over the age of 40, those with diabetes or who are very short-sighted and people of African-Caribbean origin.
Our Glaucoma Service is based in the Eye Department at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) and is one of the busiest treatment centres in the North of England, receiving many thousands of referrals for glaucoma assessment every year.
We have three Consultant Ophthalmologists who specialise in the treatment of glaucoma (Mr Birch, Mrs Ray-Chaudhuri and Miss Johnson) supported by specially trained optometrists and nurses. This team can provide you with comprehensive, expert care if you are suspected of being at risk of developing problems with your eyesight due to onset of this potentially blinding condition.
What is Glaucoma?
When glaucoma occurs, the pressure within the eye is too high for the nerves at the back of the eye (optic nerve) to obtain an adequate supply of blood. As the nerves become affected parts of the eye become less sensitive to light - this is a very gradual process which is not usually noticed until a considerable amount of sight has been lost.
Glaucoma can lead to damage to the optic nerve adversely affecting vision, which usually starts around the edges (also known as peripheral vision). It is also quite common for people with glaucoma to develop high pressure in their eye (ocular hypertension). Special treatment to reduce the pressure can be given and has a good success rate for preserving vision, if diagnosed early and treatment starts quickly.
Our eye specialists offer a full range of clinics
We have a range of specialist clinics available including:
- Glaucoma Assessment Clinic: A “one-stop” nurse-led clinic for new referrals where patients have vision field tests, optic disc photos, then referral onto a consultant clinic and treatment if appropriate.
- Consultant Specialist Glaucoma Clinic: Led by our two specialist Ophthalmologists, Mr Michael Birch and Mrs Neeta Ray-Chaudhuri.
- Stable Glaucoma Clinic: A nurse and optometrist-led clinic for ocular hypertensive (high pressure) and stable glaucomas requiring only annual follow-up visits.
"Fast-track" assessment for glaucoma
When you are referred to our Glaucoma Service you will initally be seen in one of our nurse-led Glaucoma Assessment Clinics. This is a “fast track” service which means you will be seen as quicky as possible from referral by your GP.
A specially-trained nurse will measure your vision on the eye chart, and ask some questions about your eyes and general health. Your peripheral vision will then be assessed through a visual field test using a machine called a perimeter. You will sit in front of a screen and some dim lights will go on and off - you will be asked to press a button each time you see a light.
Please note: during this test we use eye-drops to dilate (open) the pupil – the drops can cause blurring of vision for a few hours, and it can take up to 24 hours for the effects of the drops to wear off. Therefore we advise that you do not drive yourself home from the eye clinic.
What happens next?
If you are found to have glaucoma, the nurse may prescribe eye drops for you to put in every day. This medication is used to prevent your vision from getting worse in the future although generally speaking they will not make your vision any better. People with glaucoma will need to put their eye drops in every day for the rest of their life, and come back for annual checks in our Stable Glaucoma Clinic which is run by specially-trained nurses and optometrists.
Following the assessment test, if the nurse feels that you need to be seen by one of our consultant ophthalmologists, she will arrange for you to come back to see one of our consultants at a Specialist Glaucoma Clinic for further assessment.
Many of our patients are found to be normal at check-up but may be at higher risk of developing glaucoma in the future. Some of these people will be sent back to their own optometrist for regular checks. Others will stay under review by our Glaucoma Service, depending on the outcome of the assessment.
For further information on our Glaucoma Service, please contact:
- Mrs N Ray-Chaudhuri, Consultant Ophthalmologist, tel: 0191 282 5559
- Mr M Birch, Consultant Ophthalmologist, tel: 0191 282 5448
Alternatively, ask your GP, optometrist or local hospital ophthalmologist for more information.