Glaucoma is one of those illnesses which, if left undiagnosed, will slowly work away at your sight without giving you the slightest alert as to its presence. Because it targets your peripheral vision, it’s highly unlikely that you will be made aware of the vision loss until it is quite pronounced. All that, however, is not to say that we can’t diagnose glaucoma extremely early.
Annual eye exams allow us to diagnose glaucoma early, before vision loss occurs in many cases.
If you are not already having your eyes examined every 12-24 months, then you should arrange an appointment as soon as possible. If you are over 65 years of age, you should be looking for an assessment every 12 months.
The trouble with glaucoma is that it comes in various different forms, none of which have a defined “trigger”. That said, there are numerous risk factors which can heighten your likelihood of developing one form of glaucoma:
In general, glaucoma is associated with increased Intraocular Pressure (IOP) which puts pressure on the optic nerve, causing a loss of peripheral vision. However, this is not always the case. Let’s look at the main types of glaucoma and potential treatments.
This is the most common form of glaucoma, accounting for over 90% of cases in Canada. Essentially the eye’s drainage canals become clogged, causing a buildup of fluid in the eye. This increases the intraocular pressure and puts the optic nerve under considerable strain, which is the cause of the resulting vision problems. Progress is usually quite slow, hence the nickname “silent thief of sight”.
More common in those of Asian descent, acute angle closure glaucoma occurs when the drainage canals in the eye are too narrow and cannot effectively shift fluid. Unlike with open-angle glaucoma, symptoms can develop extremely rapidly. If you experience any of the following, then please arrange an emergency eye exam as quickly as possible.
Unlike other forms of the disease, this occurs when the intraocular pressure is within normal and expected bounds. The symptoms are identical to open-angle glaucoma and the root cause of the disease is not well-understood.
It is rare, but some children are not born with fully developed eye canals. This can lead to blindness in young children, but there are treatments available that are very effective at managing the problem. It’s important to take your children for regular eye exams in their infancy to look for exactly this type of condition.
Treatment for glaucoma usually involves lowering the intraocular pressure and therefore relieving stress on the optic nerve. This is even the preferred treatment method for normal tension glaucoma, where the IOP is not outside of normal bounds.
Sadly there is no cure for the disease. If you have experienced vision loss, the most important thing to do is follow your treatment plan to the letter, thereby preventing (or at the very least, decelerating) further degradation of your vision.