All About Glaucoma

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a progressive eye disease in which elevated pressure within the eye damages the optic nerve. This can lead to serious vision loss of not detected and treated early. The optic nerve is the nerve that takes all of the information the eye sees and transmits that information to the brain. The elevated pressure is due to either an increase in the production, or a decrease in the drainage, of fluid normally produced inside your eye. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in Canada.

What causes glaucoma?

The exact cause and mechanism of glaucoma is not known. For some reason, there is an overproduction of fluid and/or a decrease in fluid being drained from the eye. This results in fluid building up within your eye and increasing pressure on the optic nerve. This pressure can easily damage the nerve fibers and blood vessels in the optic nerve. An injury, infection or tumor in or around the eye can also cause the pressure to rise. These situations are referred to as secondary glaucoma because their cause is a result of something else.

Who gets glaucoma?

Glaucoma most frequently occurs in individuals over the age of 40 and there is a hereditary tendency for the development of the disease in some families. There is also a greater risk of developing glaucoma when you have diabetes, high blood pressure and a history of eye injuries. Regular optometric examinations are important for people of all ages to assess the presence of, or your risk for glaucoma. Glaucoma cannot be detected without an eye exam.

Why is glaucoma harmful to vision?

The optic nerve, at the back of the eye, carries visual information to the brain. As the fibers that make up the optic nerve are damaged due to increased pressure on the nerve, the amount and quality of information sent to the brain decreases and a loss of vision occurs. Usually peripheral vision is affected first, followed by central vision during the later stages of the disease.

Will I go blind from glaucoma?

If diagnosed at an early stage, eye drops and laser treatment can control glaucoma and little or no further vision loss should occur. If left untreated, peripheral vision is affected first, followed by central vision loss during late stages of the disease. Complete blindness may occur.

How can I tell if I have glaucoma?

Primary open-angle glaucoma often develops painlessly and gradually. There are no early warning signs. It can gradually destroy your vision without you knowing it. Regular eye exams are important for people of all ages to assess the presence of, or your risk for, glaucoma. Glaucoma cannot be detected without an eye examination. Acute angle-closure glaucoma is a more sudden type of glaucoma and may have warning signs and symptoms such as nausea, eye pain, red eyes, blurred vision and haloes around lights.

How is glaucoma detected?

A comprehensive eye examination is often the only way to detect glaucoma. Our doctors here at Highstreet Eyecare will perform a simple and painless procedure called tonometry during your routine eye exam, which measures the internal pressure of your eye.

Every adult routine eye exam also includes retinal imaging to help assess the health of the optic nerve and a visual field test to help check your peripheral vision.

How is glaucoma treated?

Treatment with daily eye drops and laser surgery is usually effective at maintaining your remaining vision. But once vision is lost due to glaucoma, it cannot be restored. This is why regular preventive eye exams with your Doctor of Optometry are so important.

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