New guidelines for the management and treatment of glaucoma will be published this week to foster a more consistent national approach to the condition and potentially prevent thousands of people from going blind.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence and the National Clinical Guideline Centre have put together the new advice to help address the current variation in the management of patients who have or are suspected to have glaucoma, which is responsible for about 10% of all UK blind registrations.

The new guidelines are designed to improve the diagnosis and management of chronic open angle glaucoma (COAG), which affects around 480,000 people in England alone, and ocular hypertension, a major risk factor for developing COAG, in the hope that earlier detection of these conditions means they can be treated before reaching a stage when serious damage to the eye – and a loss of sight - occurs.

Amongst other recommendations, the guidelines advise that people at risk of developing glaucoma should be monitored regularly, and that those with the condition or at risk from it should be given prostaglandins or beta-blockers to alleviate high pressure in the eye, to help slow down the progression of the disease and save sight.

Best care
According to NICE’s chief executive Andrew Dillon, the new recommendations “will enable health professionals to provide the best care for people with glaucoma or at risk of developing it, helping reduce the long term impact of the condition on patients’ vision and everyday lives.”

And stressing the importance of putting the new recommendations into practice “as quickly as possible”, David Wright, Chief Executive of the International Glaucoma Association and Patient and Carer Representative on the Guideline, said: “Sight can’t be restored once it’s lost, so prevention or controlling the condition to minimise damage is essential”.