U2 frontman, Bono, has recently revealed that his trademark sunglasses are more than just a rock-star affectation. In fact, he needs them to alleviate troublesome symptoms caused by glaucoma. In a TV talk-show, Bono disclosed that he had suffered ongoing problems with red eyes and extreme light-sensitivity before being diagnosed with glaucoma seven years ago.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye condition in which the optic nerve at the back of your eye becomes damaged. It is usually caused by a build-up of pressure inside the eye, but reduced blood flow to the optic nerve can also be a factor. While glaucoma is uncommon below the age of 40, it affects 1 in 50 people over that age and 1 in 20 over 70. Glaucoma causes permanent and irreversible damage to your vision and, if left untreated, can lead to complete blindness. There are 2 main forms of the condition – acute and chronic glaucoma.
Bono has acute glaucoma. This is the least common type, accounting for less than 10% of cases. Acute glaucoma usually develops rapidly, with a sudden rise of pressure inside the eye. Symptoms can be severe and include pain within and around the eye, headache, a red eye and misty or blurred vision - often with haloes seen around lights. In some cases, symptoms are milder but recurrent, lasting for just a few hours at a time before disappearing again.
Chronic glaucoma is by far the most common form of the disease. Unlike acute glaucoma, it has no symptoms in the early stages. In fact, it is a classic example of a “silent” disease, developing slowly and painlessly over many years. If you have chronic glaucoma, your peripheral or side vision will be gradually eroded - resulting in “tunnel vision”, if untreated. Surprisingly, even people with late stage glaucoma can still achieve 20/20 eyesight despite having lost most of their peripheral vision. By then, however, it is often too late to stop the disease eating into central vision, causing complete blindness
Protecting your sight
So, how can you protect your eyesight from the dangers of glaucoma? Early detection through regular eye tests is key – particularly to rule out the symptomless, chronic form. For most adults, that means having an eye test every 2 years. If you fall into a high risk category - for example, you are aged over 70, are diabetic or have a close relative with glaucoma - yearly eye tests are recommended. If, like Bono, you experience worrying symptoms, you should have your eyes checked as a matter of urgency. Remember, the earlier glaucoma is detected, and treatment started, the better your chances of maintaining good vision.