Did you know that glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness for people over the age of 60? Many forms of glaucoma do not show any warning signs and the effects are so gradual that many people do not notice a change in vision until the condition is at an advanced stage.
Vision loss from glaucoma cannot be recovered so it is critical to have eye exams regularly to ensure the condition is caught in its early stages and is treated appropriately. If the condition is caught early enough, preventative measures can be taken to slow the progression of vision loss.
The optic nerve behind the eye is responsible for carrying impulses to the brain where visual information is interpreted. The back of the eye also produces a clear fluid called aqueous humor which normally drains between the cornea and iris in the eye. When there is a blockage and the fluid cannot expel, pressure begins to build up inside of the eye damaging the optic nerve. As the nerve deteriorates, blind spots begin to develop in the visual field. There are two main types of glaucoma:
Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of the disease and occurs when the trabecular meshwork in the eye is partially blocked, not allowing for proper fluid drainage. This form of glaucoma is painless and does not show symptoms except for gradual vision loss over time.
Angle-closure glaucoma occurs when the iris of the eye bulges forwards and narrows itself very close to the drainage angle. The iris can fully block the drainage angle and causes the eye pressure to rise very quickly. Closed-angle glaucoma can occur suddenly and is a medical emergency that must be treated immediately to prevent permanent vision loss. Symptoms include:
Unfortunately, ophthalmologists do not know how to stop glaucoma from developing in the first place and can only take preventative measures to reduce the risks of serious vision loss or blindness. If you lose vision, it cannot be recovered. There is no cure, but early treatment can often stop the damage and protect an individual's vision.
1. Get Regular Eye Exams
Regular comprehensive eye exams will be able to detect the early stages of glaucoma before it is too late. Ophthalmologists will be able to begin treatment plans right away to prevent any permanent vision loss from occurring. Individuals with a higher risk of glaucoma due to family history or age should visit their optometrist more frequently to guarantee early detection so the disease does not progress until it shows irreversible effects.
2. Family Medical History
Glaucoma tends to run in families and can be passed down to children. Let your optometrist know about your family's medical history to receive more frequent eye exams.
3. Take Prescribed Eye Drops
Many individuals who develop permanent vision loss from glaucoma do not take their prescribed eye drops regularly or as directed by their doctor. Following doctors' treatment plans even if you have no symptoms will highly reduce the risk of glaucoma developing over time.
4. Safe Exercise
Brisk walking or moderately paced exercise can help improve overall health while reducing the pressure in the eye. Be careful not to perform intense exercises such as heavy lifting which can increase eye pressure. Individuals can also prevent glaucoma from developing by maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, and not smoking.
5. Wear Eye Protection
Serious eye injuries can lead to glaucoma. Prevent injuries by always wearing protective eyewear when using power tools or while playing high-speed racket sports.
The symptoms of glaucoma can start very slowly and be unnoticeable until irreversible vision loss has occurred. This is what makes glaucoma so dangerous and why regular eye exams are critical to ensure early detection of the disease. Clinically, the goal is to manage the eyes’ pressure to stabilize vision when treating glaucoma. There is ongoing research to better understand the disease and find a cure to prevent ongoing vision loss and blindness.
If you are at high risk for glaucoma or are worried and want to rule it out through a comprehensive eye exam that includes glaucoma screening, My Optometrist has you covered. Contact one of our My Optometrist Calgary clinics at either 403-256-0606 (Health First Optometry), 403-291-0923 (Sunridge Vision Centre), or 403-443-2040 (Three Hills Optometry) and book your appointment today.
Q: Can glaucoma be cured?
A: The damage to the optic nerve cannot be reversed and any vision loss that has occurred cannot be brought back. The progression of glaucoma can be slowed or stopped with the use of several treatment plans such as surgery, prescription eye drops, or laser options.
Q: How will my eye doctor check for glaucoma?
A: During a comprehensive eye exam, your doctor will put numbing eye drops in your eye so you cannot feel anything touching it. With the use of a tonometer, your doctor will touch the tip of the probe to the cornea of the eye. The tonometer will detect the intraocular pressure in the eye to determine if the readings are normal and if you are at a risk for developing glaucoma.
Q: Am I at risk for glaucoma?
A: Anyone can develop glaucoma, but there are a few people who are at a higher risk. AT highest risk are individuals:
Talk to your doctor about your risk of glaucoma and how often you need to get eye exams performed.
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