When it comes to the leading causes of blindness in Canada, glaucoma is right there at the top. Encompassing a number of different eye diseases, glaucoma results in the progressive degeneration of the optic nerve. If left untreated, this can ultimately lead to the loss of nerve tissue which can end up resulting in permanent, irreversible vision loss.
Glaucoma is sometimes referred to as the silent vision thief due to the fact that it often doesn't present with any noticeable symptoms in those afflicted with the disease. Not until the disease has progressed to a later stage do most people first notice that something is wrong. This is why glaucoma screening is such an important part of your annual overall eye health-care plan.
To learn more about glaucoma and how it's treated, read on below for this week's article from our Calgary optometrist.
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Glaucoma: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments
When it comes to what causes glaucoma, the jury is still out as no definitive answer has been found yet. However, we do know there are four forms the eye disease takes. They are:
Open-angle glaucoma is the most prevalent and common form of the disease. It occurs when there is either too much fluid within our eye, or when the fluid in our eye isn't draining properly. Either of these problems results in too much pressure being placed on the optic nerve. Because the optic nerve sends our brain all the information it sees, when it's damaged that information is compromised and reduced, which is how vision loss occurs. For patients who suffer from this form of glaucoma, their peripheral vision is usually first to go and as the disease progresses their central vision disappears too.
Angle-closure glaucoma is less common and is actually classified as an eye emergency because if it is left untreated it can lead to vision loss within only one day. This form of glaucoma occurs when the angle with which fluid drains in the eye becomes blocked or closes itself off. Because the fluid can't drain, pressure within the eye increases and damage is caused to the optic nerve.
Secondary glaucoma can be caused by a number of things and as its name implies, it's usually the result of something else that has happened such as an injury or infection near the eye. The injury or infection causes fluid pressure within the eye to increase which can result in damage to the optic nerve.
Normal tension glaucoma is the most mysterious form of glaucoma as fluid within the eye is found to be at an acceptable or normal level. However, damage to the optic nerve occurs nonetheless and why this happens is still not known by the medical community.
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Depending on what type of glaucoma you have and how far the disease has progressed, the symptoms can vary quite a bit. That being said, the main symptoms of the two most common forms of glaucoma include:
- Peripheral vision loss (open-angle)
- Central vision loss (open-angle)
- Eye pain (acute angle-closure)
- Headache (acute angle-closure)
- Vomiting/nausea (acute angle-closure)
- Blurry vision (acute angle-closure)
- Eye redness (acute angle-closure)
The most common treatment methods for glaucoma include eye drops, medication, and surgery. It should be noted that all these treatments are aimed at reducing the amount of pressure within the affected eye(s) and they are often effectively used to maintain the current level of vision of the person being treated. These treatments cannot, however, reverse any vision loss or damage that has already occurred due to glaucoma.
Because glaucoma can progress without any symptoms to a stage where vision loss is unavoidable, regular eye exams that include glaucoma screening or testing is highly recommended.
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