What should you know about glaucoma?

Did you know that glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in Canada? In fact, over 400,000 Canadians suffer from glaucoma every day.

Glaucoma is sometimes called the “silent thief of sight”, which often develops gradually, can occur without any warning signs, and causes little pain or discomfort. One of the only ways to detect glaucoma is with regular and comprehensive eye exams, a critical part of any healthy lifestyle.

Glaucoma is a term that refers to a group of eye diseases that cause damage to your optic nerve. Damage to the optic nerve from glaucoma often comes from high-pressure buildup in the eye. The optic nerve is responsible for sending images to your brain, essentially giving you sight. With increased damage to the optic nerve from glaucoma, irreversible loss of vision or even blindness can take place. 

There are four main types of glaucoma:

  • Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type and refers to when fluid doesn’t flow in the drain structure of your eye as it should. This then puts increased pressure on the eye and optic nerve.
  • Angle-closure or closed angle glaucoma is when the eye doesn’t drain fluid as it should because the space between the cornea and iris becomes very narrow (with age, the lens or other factors in an eye becomes larger, narrowing the space between the cornea and iris) and can even cause vision loss within a day. This causes fluid to gather and then puts increased pressure on the eye and optic nerve. 
  • Secondary glaucoma is caused by a physical injury, infection or eye tumour that causes the pressure in an eye to increase, which can impact the optic nerve.
  • Normal-tension glaucoma is when eye pressure remains at a normal level, but the optic nerve has still become damaged.

Risk factors to consider that put you at increased risk of glaucoma:

  • High internal eye pressure 
  • Age is 60+ 
  • Certain ethnic backgrounds are at higher risk such as African or Asian descent 
  • Genetics, if you have a family history of glaucoma
  • Medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and/or high blood pressure 
  • Physical damage or injury to the eye
  • Use of certain medications such as corticosteroids 
  • Eye-related risks such as the anatomy of your eye, retinal detachment, eye tumours or eye inflammations

Treatment of glaucoma often consists of medication that helps to reduce pressure in the eye or surgery that works to improve the angle and reduce the pressure inside the eye.

It is important to have regular eye exams, as this is often the only way to detect glaucoma and its associated risk factors. When caught early, glaucoma can often be treated and vision loss can be avoided. 

Talk to one of our eye doctors today about getting a comprehensive eye health exam and glaucoma screening. Our eye care professionals will provide a thorough assessment and investigate any factors that may put you at an increased risk of glaucoma. We take pride in taking care of our patients and providing proactive and excellence in vision care.