Living with glaucoma
It’s normal to worry if you get a diagnosis of glaucoma. Over half a million people are living with glaucoma in the UK (Source: Moorfields). Some people will be able to make simple changes to manage the condition, while others will experience significant visual impairment. Either way, it’s important to know there's support out there for you.
Managing your glaucoma
Having regular eye exams is the best way to ensure any eye condition or problem is detected. It will also mean you can get support from day one. An early diagnosis can prevent further damage to your sight – often before you notice any glaucoma symptoms.
If you're diagnosed with glaucoma, you’ll probably need some form of treatment to lower eye pressure that is too high. Most people will need to take eye drops long term or for the rest of their life. At first, you might want to set reminders, for example, on your phone to help you remember to take them. You could also take your medication at the same time as other things you already do routinely, like brushing your teeth.
If you have any problems taking eye drops or experience side effects that bother you, get help from your ophthalmologist. It’s important not to stop taking them. Your eye doctor will offer advice or suggest an alternative that suits you better.
Attending regular checkups
You’ll have regular eye clinic follow-ups to make sure the glaucoma treatment is working. Tests will measure the pressure in your eye, examine the optic nerve, and check your vision.
Although glaucoma can’t be prevented, it’s a good idea to follow an active, healthy lifestyle. Some activities can increase pressure in the eye (for example, some downward-facing yoga positions) and are best avoided. But on the whole, regular exercise and healthy eating are good lifestyle changes for your general wellbeing and eye health.
Driving with glaucoma
If you have glaucoma, you’ll probably be relieved to know it’s possible to continue driving as long as your treatment effectively prevents loss of vision and you meet the necessary driving standards.
Glaucoma and work
If glaucoma affects your sight, you may want to tell your employer. They should make reasonable adjustments to help you. You can explain how glaucoma affects your sight and the kind of things that may help you, such as:
- Adjustments to lighting and desk set up to control glare and contrast.
- Aids such as magnifiers to help with reading.
- Larger print for materials or products you use.
We have plenty of ideas on how to make the most of your vision that you can try.
It can help to think ahead about working with glaucoma and whether any of your responsibilities might need to change if you experience vision loss. You could speak to your employer about what alternatives there might be.
Living independently with glaucoma
There’s lots of practical advice to help manage changes to your sight. But talking to someone can also help you deal with the emotional side of being diagnosed with glaucoma.
Our Guide Line can help you find support groups and services local to you. Sharing your feelings and talking them over can boost your confidence about living with glaucoma or any other eye disease. Your family members might also benefit from understanding more about living with glaucoma and how to support you.
For many people with glaucoma, the biggest change in daily life will be taking glaucoma medications and having regular eye care check-ups.
If your condition progresses and affects your sight, some adjustments can help you adapt and make daily life a bit easier.
Peripheral vision loss
If glaucoma affects your side (peripheral) vision, you might experience issues with:
- Getting around outside when there isn’t much sunlight
- Seeing in very bright sunlight or near reflective surfaces
- Adapting to sudden changes in lighting
- Navigating obstacles and hazards
- Walking on unlevel ground, steps, and stairs
We have ideas to help you if your vision is affected. For example, anti-glare glasses or coloured lenses can help with bright light, and different types of lighting can help you at home.
Loss of central vision and ability to see detail
If glaucoma affects your central vision, it might cause difficulty with:
- Distinguishing colours
- Pouring drinks
- Choosing the right item from similar ones when shopping
- Preparing food, for example, chopping vegetables safely
There are some skills and strategies to help you make the most of your remaining vision. You might also benefit from low vision aids like magnifiers to help you better see details. You can contact us to find out about services and support that can be tailored to your individual needs.
You can also ask your eye specialist or clinic for a low vision assessment (LVA) to get tailored advice and support to make the most of your sight. Local social services can also advise about keeping safe at home and getting around safely if sight loss affects your mobility.
Registering as visually impaired
If your vision loss from glaucoma or any other eye condition is significant, you may be able to register as having sight loss. It’s entirely your decision, but being registered as either sight impaired (previously called partially sighted) or severely sight impaired (formerly known as blind) can give you access to further support, including financial benefits such as:
- Support for using public transport and parking
- Tax allowance
- Personal Independence Payment (PIP) (previously Disability Living Allowance (DLA))
Either your GP or optician will be able to refer you to an ophthalmologist to start the process.
Frequently asked questions
Get in touch
You can contact us to find out about services and support tailored to your individual needs.
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists champions excellence in the practice of ophthalmology and is the only professional membership body for medically qualified ophthalmologists. The RCOphth is unable to offer direct advice to patients. If you’re concerned about the health of your eyes, you should seek medical advice from your GP, optometrist or ophthalmologist.