Glaucoma: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Glaucoma is one of the most common eye diseases in Canada. According to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, more than 250,000 Canadians suffer from glaucoma. If caught early, patients can lessen their risk of developing blindness as the disease progresses. In fact, with support from your optometrist, the symptoms of glaucoma can be effectively controlled allowing patients to continue enjoying the activities they love.

What Is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is different in each patient and each type can present different symptoms and levels of severity, leading to irreversible damage to the optic nerve.

Primary open-angle glaucoma: This is the most common form of glaucoma with approximately 90% of patients experiencing symptoms of primary glaucoma. It occurs when increased intraocular fluid pressure affects the optic nerve because of it not being able to drain properly. Symptoms generally do not appear for years, which means without regular eye exams and care from an optometrist, vision loss is imminent.

Angle-closure glaucoma: This type of glaucoma occurs when the drainage angle of the cornea and iris closes or becomes blocked. This can be chronic or acute, and patients are likely to experience severe pain from the sudden onset of this type of glaucoma and should seek immediate medical attention, otherwise vision loss can occur in as little as a day

Secondary glaucoma: This type of glaucoma is caused by an eye injury or infection that increases your eye pressure. It may also be the result of health issues such as diabetes or certain medications.

What are the symptoms of glaucoma in the eyes?

With open angle glaucoma, symptoms usually don’t appear for years until it has already advanced and you begin to notice vision loss, which begins in your peripheral vision.

Patients who are experiencing acute closed-angle glaucoma may notice the following symptoms:

  • Severe eye pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Redness
  • Halos around lights

Risk factors that can contribute to symptoms of glaucoma in the eyes are:

Eye pressure: patients who experience higher levels of intraocular eye pressure are at an increased risk of developing glaucoma.

Family History: If you have a family history of glaucoma, you are more likely to develop it yourself.

Age: Patients over the age of 40 are at a higher risk of developing glaucoma.

Ethnicity: African Americans are at a particularly higher risk of developing open-angle glaucoma. Patients of Asian and Inuit decent on the other hand are more likely to develop angle closure angle glaucoma.

Myopia: Patients who are nearsighted are at a higher risk of developing glaucoma.

Treatment and prevention of glaucoma

It is important to see your optometrist if you are experiencing symptoms of glaucoma. They can conduct a thorough glaucoma test through a comprehensive eye exam and an OCT scan, An OCT scan provides your optometrist with a detailed 3D image of all the retinal layers at the back of the eye, ensuring an accurate diagnosis in the earliest stages of glaucoma, while an eye exam includes assessments like an eye pressure test and peripheral vision test. All of this can help us to act quickly to find the best solution to slow down disease progression and manage it over time.

You may be given special eye drops to control your eye pressure, or in more severe cases, be referred to an ophthalmologist for further tests and potentially surgical treatment. Our optometrists in Ontario are specialists in eye disease management, with state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment to help them identify and monitor glaucoma.

Remember, an eye exam in Ontario for glaucoma is covered by OHIP. So, if you are over 40 or have a family with a history of glaucoma, book your eye exam today for your peace of mind.