‘Poor old blind Bono’ – U2 star on the eye condition he has battled for ’20 years’

Cause of Glaucoma explained

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The lead vocalist and activist first spoke about his eye condition when appearing on the BBC’s Graham Norton Show where he said: “This is a good place to explain to people that I’ve had glaucoma for the last 20 years. I have good treatments and I am going to be fine.” Acting as more than just a fashion accessory, Bono’s coloured glasses are there to alleviate any difficulties caused by the condition that occurs due to damage to the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain.

“You’re not going to get this out of your head now and you will be saying, ‘Ah, poor old blind Bono,’” the star continued to say whilst appearing on the chat show.

Glaucoma, as explained by the National Eye Institute, is the name given to a group of eye diseases that can cause vision loss and blindness.

Symptoms tend to begin slowly making it difficult for individuals to notice at first. Due to this, the condition is typically diagnosed through an eye examination, making it even more important that individuals regularly get their eyes checked.

The most common type of glaucoma is a type known as open-angle glaucoma. This is caused by the drainage channels in the eye which over time become gradually clogged and fluid tends to build up.

Other types of glaucoma include:

  • Acute angle closure glaucoma – an uncommon type caused by the drainage in the eye becoming suddenly blocked, which can raise the pressure inside the eye very quickly
  • Secondary glaucoma – caused by an underlying eye condition, such as inflammation of the eye (uveitis)
  • Childhood glaucoma (congenital glaucoma) – a rare type that occurs in very young children, caused by an abnormality of the eye.

Although anyone is at risk of developing the eye condition, there are certain risk factors that make individuals at a higher risk. These include those aged over 60 and those with a history of glaucoma in their families.

Despite the condition usually developing slowly, when individuals do start to notice symptoms they may include blurred vision, or seeing rainbow-coloured circles around bright lights.

These symptoms usually affect both eyes but may be worse in one. Other potential symptoms of glaucoma, that can sometimes develop suddenly include:

  • Intense eye pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A red eye
  • A headache
  • Tenderness around the eyes
  • Seeing rings around lights
  • Blurred vision.

For Bono, glaucoma causes light sensitivity, which is also known as photophobia. For some people, this discomfort can be extreme and can further reduce their usable vision.

In order to limit the amount of light entering the eye, the RNIB provides the following tips:

  • Wear sunglasses
  • Use eyeshields
  • Shading eyes with your hand when outside
  • Making adjustments to lighting at home or in work.

Without treatment the NHS notes that glaucoma can eventually lead to blindness, making it critical that individuals seek medical attention as soon as they start to notice symptoms.

A GP or optician will be able to carry out multiple tests in order to diagnose the condition. This includes vision tests and measurements of the pressure inside the eye.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends having a comprehensive eye exam every five to 10 years if you’re under 40 years old; every two to four years if you’re 40 to 54 years old; every one to three years if you’re 55 to 64 years old; and every one to two years if you’re older than 65. However, individuals that are at risk of glaucoma, will need more frequent screening.

Once diagnosed with the condition, a specialist eye doctor will usually assist with treatments. It is important to note that treatment cannot reverse any vision loss that occurred before diagnosis, but it aims to stop vision from getting any worse.

Treatment often depends on the type of glaucoma an individual has but the most common options include eyedrops, laser treatment and surgery. Drops aim to reduce pressure in the eyes while laser treatment is used to unblock drainage tubes and reduce the production of fluid in the eyes.

If drops and laser treatment fails to help an individual’s condition then surgery may be recommended. There are a few different types of surgery for glaucoma that can help lower the pressure in your eye:

  • Trabeculectomy
  • Glaucoma implant surgery
  • Minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS).

The first, trabeculectomy is used to treat open-angle glaucoma and involves the surgeon creating a tiny opening in the top of the eye. The opening will be under the eyelid, where no one will see it. This opening allows extra fluid in your eye to drain away, lowering pressure in your eye.

Glaucoma implant surgery involves the surgeon implanting a tiny tube onto the white of the eye to help drain extra fluid out of the eye and thus lowering pressure. Finally, MIGS is a minimally invasive type of surgery that lowers eye pressure. It has fewer risks and side effects and helps you recover faster.

For some people, the benefits of surgery last a long time. For others, the opening in the eye begins to close up meaning they need surgery again. In order to monitor this individuals will need regular check-ups with to test their eye pressure. That way, your doctor will be able to act fast if they need more treatment.

Research shows that a trabeculectomy can lower eye pressure in about seven out of 10 people. It may work best in people who haven’t had an eye injury or another eye surgery.

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