Over 400, 000 Canadians live with glaucoma, and more are diagnosed every day. Researchers expect cases of glaucoma to increase exponentially by 2030. Now more than ever, it’s important to understand the facts of glaucoma: the cause, the effects, and measures you can take to safeguard your eyesight.
Glaucoma is often called “the silent thief of sight” for the way it appears without symptoms, slowly destroying your eyesight. By the time patients notice a change in their vision, they’ve already suffered irrevocable damage.
Annual eye exams are the best, and really the only way to detect glaucoma before it causes significant and permanent damage to your eyes.
Glaucoma is a disease that slowly damages the optic nerve over time. If the optic nerve doesn’t function properly, your brain can’t receive messages from your eyes. After a few years, untreated glaucoma will most likely cause total blindness.
There are two main types of glaucoma.
Also called wide angle glaucoma, this version of the disease is the more common of the two. Fluid builds up in the eye despite the fact that the eye’s drainage structure looks perfectly normal. The buildup of fluid causes high intraocular pressure. Doctors do not know why the eye fluid does not drain properly in these cases.
This type of glaucoma is also called acute angle closure, or narrow angle glaucoma. In these cases, there is not enough space between the iris and the cornea for the fluid to drain properly. The iris essentially blocks eye fluid from escaping, causing the intraocular pressure to rise.
Although glaucoma can have a genetic component, there are a few factors that do seem to contribute to the likelihood of developing glaucoma. The following things put you at a higher risk of glaucoma:
There is no cure for glaucoma, and nothing can be done to repair damage the optic nerve has already sustained due to glaucoma. However, there are treatments to slow the progression of the disease, so the sooner it’s diagnosed, the better.
There are a few laser procedures available to assist your eye’s ability to drain fluid, reducing the intraocular pressure. Trabeculoplasty opens the drainage area slightly, allowing fluid to flow a little bit more freely. Iridotomy can be effective in treating angle closure glaucoma; a tiny hole is made in the iris, allowing fluid to move through it to the drainage angle. Cyclophotocoagulation attempts to stop the abundance of eye fluid before it starts by treating the part of your eye that produces fluid.
Sometimes your doctor will recommend a procedure called trabeculectomy to assist your eye with drainage. The ophthalmologist create a new channel in your eye to help the fluid to drain. Sometimes, they will even implant a small tube in the channel to make drainage even easier. This surgery doesn’t always work the first time, and occasionally has to be redone. Although it is rare, there are occasionally complications in this surgery leading to bleeding, infection, and temporary or permanent vision loss.
There are also medication options that can help slow down glaucoma. This is usually the first avenue of treatment your doctor will try. The medicine will come in the form of eyedrops. Since the symptoms of glaucoma aren’t usually noticeable, patients will forget or neglect to take their medication regularly, allowing the disease to quietly progress. It is crucial you take your medication exactly as your doctor tells you to slow down the effects of glaucoma.
Come see us for yourself. We’re located Kelowna’s Pandosy Village District, across from Raymer Elementary School.