Lions Eye Health Programme


  • Glaucoma
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Age related macular degeneration
  • Low Vision


Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye conditions in which the nerve of sight sustains characteristic damage to the visual field which, if not detected and treated will lead to tunnel vision and eventual blindness. The most common form of the condition is open angle glaucoma.

Open Angle Glaucoma
A watery fluid is naturally produced in the front part of the eye which drains away through a meshwork of tissues. This fluid nourishes the eye and it's circulation is essential for the health of the eye. However, in glaucoma the drainage system becomes less efficient with the result that the pressure within the eye gradually rises damaging the nerve of sight. It is this pressue which must be controlled in order to prevent permanent damage to the field of vision.

In this country about 2% of people over the age of forty have glaucoma, it is a leading cause of preventable blindness. Although anyone can develop glaucoma, some groups of people are at higher risk than others. These high risk groups include:

  • People with a family history of glaucoma
  • People of African-Caribbean origin
  • People who have diabetes
  • People who are very short sighted

At first there are no symptoms, vision appears to be normal, there is no pain or sensation of pressure. As the disease progresses the side vision gradually fails but a person may still be able to read without spectacles. However, the aim of glaucoma screening is to detect the condition before there is any noticeable loss of vision, to prevent its onset.

Glaucoma is usually detected during routine eye test for spectacles, however, it is most important to ensure the optometrist (optician) carries out all three glaucoma tests. Only one test, ophthalmoscopy, (which is an examination of the back of the eye using a special type of torch) is a mandatory part of the sight test. If glaucoma is to be detected at the earliest possible stage then tonometry (a measurement of pressure within the eye) is necessary. Together these tests increase the glaucoma detection rate by four times when compared with ophthalmoscopy alone.

Although angle glaucoma cannot be cured, it can usually be controlled. The most common treatments are:

Medications: these are usually in the form of eye drops. For most people with glaucoma regular use of these eye drops will successfully control the intraocular pressure. However , if a person does not respond well to medical treatment, the eye specialist may alter the medical therapy or suggest laser treatment or surery to reduce the pressure to an acceptable level.

Laser: during laser treatment a strong beam of light is focused on the drainage area of the eye, this can increase the outflow of fluid from the eye. However, in time the effect of laser treatment tends to wear off and it is likely that glaucoma medication will have to be continued.

Surgery: during an operation the surgeon creates a 'trap door' safety valve to allow excess aqueous fluid to drain more freely thereby reducing the pressure. This is the second most common operation carried out in eye departments in this country and has a high success rate. In some cases medical therapy can be discontinued following surgery although careful monitoring of the intraocular pressure and visual field will still be required for life.

There is an enormous amount of research currently underway both in this country and overseas including investigation of improved detection techniques, new surgical techniques, and the genetics of glaucoma.

What can you do to protect your vision?
Studies have shown that early detection and treatment of glaucoma, before it causes noticeable visual loss, is the best way to control the disease. If you fall into one of the risk categories for the disease, make sure you have your eyes examined every two years and remember to ask for all three glaucoma tests: Ophthalmoscopy, Tonometry and Perimetry.

For further information on all aspects of glaucoma contact:

International Glaucoma Association
Woodcote House
15 Highpoint Business Village
Kent  TN24 8DH

Tel: 01233 648179


Diabetic retinopathy

This disease is a leading cause of blindness among people of working age in Britain. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina. In some people with diabetic retinopathy, retinal blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In other people, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. These changes may result in visual loss or blindness.

Who is most likely to get diabetic retinopathy?
Anyone with diabetes. The longer someone has diabetes, the more likely he or she will get diabetic retinopathy. Over half of all people with diabetes will develop some degree of retinopathy during their


RNIB - Low Vision
58-72 John Bright Street
Birmingham  B1 1BN

Tel: 0845 766 9999