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Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in Canada. It is a chronic progressive eye disease resulting from degeneration of the optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting visual information to the brain. Damage to the tissue of the optic nerve head can increase pressures in the eye leading to peripheral vision loss. This becomes progressively worse, and ultimately, affects central vision during later stages of the disease. Once vision is lost due to glaucoma, it cannot be restored.
Many people with “normal” eye pressure can also develop glaucoma through injury, infection or tumour. These situations are referred to as secondary glaucoma, because the increase in pressure is developed through another condition.
Glaucoma most frequently occurs in individuals over the age of 40, and can be hereditary. Primary open angle glaucoma is common and has no symptoms as it is painless and gradual. The risk of developing glaucoma increases when you have a history of diabetes, high blood pressure or a eye injuries. It is important for patients of all ages to regularly have comprehensive eye exams to assess the presence of, or your risk for, glaucoma.
How is glaucoma detected?
A comprehensive eye examination by your optometrist is often the only way to detect glaucoma through a simple and painless procedure (tonometry) to measure the internal pressure of your eye. Your optometrist will examine the optic nerve often through a dilated pupil using a series of hand held lenses. They may also use advanced imaging devices.
How is glaucoma treated?
Treatment of glaucoma will depend on the severity and progress of the disease. It cannot be cured, but can be tempered, often with daily eye drops. Laser surgery is also another treatment option to help retain remaining vision.