Helping save the sight of thousands of people
Nearly half a million people in England are affected by chronic open angle glaucoma (COAG). The condition is caused by optic nerve damage and can lead to blindness. Throughout the UK around 10% of people who are registered as blind lost their sight as a result of some form of glaucoma.
Many people with COAG won't know their eyesight is at risk as usually, there are no symptoms until vision is already seriously damaged. The good news is that early diagnosis, careful monitoring and treatment can slow down the progression of the disease and save people's sight, according to recently published NICE guidance on the subject.
What's more, optometrists working locally on the high street have an important role in identifying and potentially managing the condition. (There's more information for optometrists on the NICE website.)
‘Glaucoma: Diagnosis and management of chronic open angle glaucoma and ocular hypertension' recommends that people with the condition - or who may be at risk - should be offered a suite of tests and monitored regularly. Those at risk may include people with high eye pressure (ocular hypertension or OHT).
The tests should include an assessment of eye pressure and drainage, cornea thickness, thefield of vision and optic nerve heads.
Welcoming the guideline, David Wright, Chief Executive of the International Glaucoma Association, and Patient and Carer Representative on the Guideline, said: “It's vital that this NICE guideline is put into practice as quickly as possible … Sight can't be restored once it's lost, so prevention or controlling the condition to minimise damage, is essential”.
He added: “People at higher risk of developing glaucoma, such as those with a family history, of Caribbean or African descent or those over 60 should be aware of the condition and consider getting checked”.
John Sparrow, Chair of the Guideline Development Group and Consultant Ophthalmologist, described theguideline as “an important step forward in raising the standards of care for people at risk of vision-loss from glaucoma”.
In particular, he welcomed the detail on how often people should be monitored. This should help minimise delays in follow-up appointments - something which he describes as “a significant problem”.
Clarification on how to manage OHT and the guideline's emphasis on prevention is also important, he said. “In short, implementing this guideline will prevent more people from going blind”.
Further information is provided on the NICE website at www.nice.org.uk/CG85
Issued: 22 June 2009
This page was last updated: 14 April 2010