Glaucoma is an eye disease that involves damage to the optic nerve, leading to a loss of nerve function and vision. Glaucoma is one of the most common causes of blindness, affecting more than 350,000 Canadians. While the disease typically strikes older people, it can develop at any age.
Glaucoma causes No one knows the exact cause of glaucoma, but pressure build-up in the eye is a risk factor. People who are over the age of 40, have a family history, are nearsighted or who use certain drugs, such as steroids, are at an increased risk of developing the disease. It is important to see a doctor for regular eye exams since it is possible to detect and treat glaucoma before a person experiences vision loss.
Glaucoma symptoms Often glaucoma develops slowly with no symptoms until vision is lost irreversibly. Vision problems that are not corrected by glasses or contact lenses could be caused by glaucoma. With open-angle glaucoma, the most common type, sufferers don’t notice symptoms until the disease is advanced. With closed-angle glaucoma, symptoms include a dull ache over one eye, changes in vision and blurry vision. Close-angle glaucoma may require emergency medical treatment.
Glaucoma diagnosis/tests A comprehensive eye exam may help your eye doctor detect glaucoma while it’s in the treatable early stages. See an optometrist for an eye exam that will include a visual acuity (eye chart) test, visual field test to measure peripheral vision, a dilated eye exam to check your retina and optic nerve, tonometry to measure eye pressure, and pachymetry to measure the thickness of your cornea.
Glaucoma treatment Medications that lower Intra-Ocular Pressure in the eye may be prescribed and depending on the type of glaucoma, laser or micro-surgery is necessary to prevent symptoms. Surgery involves cutting the eye to relieve pressure.
Glaucoma prevention It may be possible to prevent vision loss. Maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure. Since eye injuries can result in glaucoma, protect your eyes during sports or activities. Get regular eye exams to detect and treat glaucoma early before long-term damage happens.