How do I know if I have Glaucoma?

You may have heard of glaucoma but are you aware of how glaucoma affects your eye health and vision? Over 450,000 Canadians are affected by glaucoma and it is one of the leading causes of blindness. Known as ‘the silent thief of sight’, glaucoma can progress without symptoms or loss of vision during the early stages. Read further to learn more.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an eye disease characterized by a degeneration of the optic nerve.

The optic nerve, at the back of the eye, carries visual information to the brain. The amount and quality of this information decreases as the fibres that make up the optic nerve are damaged. This can cause vision loss.

What is the cause of glaucoma and who is affected?

The exact cause of glaucoma is not known.

If you have any of the following, then you may at an increased risk of developing glaucoma: elevated eye pressure, are over the age of 40, have a family history of glaucoma, have physical injury or surgery to the eye, cardiovascular conditions (such as high blood pressure, low blood pressure, heart conditions, etc), certain eye-related conditions (such as decreased optic nerve tissue, retinal detachment, eye tumour, eye inflammation, etc.), or diabetes.

What are the symptoms of glaucoma?

Glaucoma is often referred to as ‘the silent thief of sight’ because there are no symptoms in its early stages.

Depending on the type of glaucoma, symptoms may include blurry vision, eye redness, eye pain, light sensitivity, halos around lights, tearing, nausea, vomiting, headache, and rapid progression to vision loss.

The different types of glaucoma

  • Primary open-angle glaucoma often develops painlessly and gradually with no early warning signs. This type of glaucoma accounts for approximately 90% of all glaucoma cases and can gradually destroy your vision without you knowing it.
  • Angle-closure glaucoma may have symptoms such as nausea, eye pain, red eyes, blurred vision, and haloes around light. This condition can occur chronically or acutely.
  • Normal-tension glaucoma is the term used for people who have developed glaucoma but have ‘normal’ eye pressure.
  • Secondary glaucoma can form when an injury, infection, or tumor in or around the eye causing the pressure inside the eye to rise.

How does glaucoma affect my vision?

As glaucoma progresses, people may experience the loss of side vision or peripheral vision, eventually progressing to tunnel vision. Central vision loss takes place during the late stages of the disease. The loss of vision may interfere with daily tasks such as driving.

If left untreated, permanent vision loss can occur.

How is glaucoma detected?

As glaucoma can progress with or without symptoms, having a comprehensive eye exam is essential.

Early-stage glaucoma can be detected through a routine eye exam. Early detection and treatment are crucial in preventing the progression toward vision loss.

During an eye exam, the eyes’ internal pressure is measured using a painless procedure called tonometry. Our optometrists will also look directly inside the eye to inspect for any damage to the optic nerve and retinal layers. Your field of vision or peripheral vision will be measured; this can aid in diagnosing glaucoma.

Learn more about having a comprehensive eye exam at Oak Bay Optometry.

Further imaging and testing may be conducted to measure functional vision loss and structural changes in the eye.

How is glaucoma treated?

Treatment will depend on the severity and progress of the disease. It cannot be cured, but rather controlled. Medication, generally in the form of eye drops, can be prescribed to reduce elevated eye pressure. Several surgical procedures are available to reduce eye pressure if treatment with medication is not enough.

Once vision is lost due to glaucoma, it cannot be restored. Since the disease can progress and change silently, routine eye exams and compliance with treatment are essential.

If you have further questions regarding glaucoma or your eye health, it is best to visit your optometrist.

What does an optometrist do?

Your optometrist is your primary healthcare provider regarding your eye health and wellness.

In Canada, they’re the eye-care professional responsible for testing your visual acuity and prescribing corrective eyewear such as glasses and contact lenses.

According to the BC Doctors of Optometry, your optometrist will:

– Provide an optometric eye exam
– Examine, assess, measure, and diagnose disorders and diseases within the human eye such as glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration
– Recognize and co-manage related systemic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and brain tumours.
– Test visual acuity and prescribe corrective eyewear such as glasses and contact lenses.
– Remove foreign bodies from the eye
– Provide referrals to secondary specialists, such as ophthalmologist, for treatment of systemic disease or eye surgery when necessary
– Co-manage pre and post-operative care for laser vision correction and ocular diseases with ophthalmologists.

Regular visits to your optometrist are important to monitor your eye health and help you experience crisp vision. A comprehensive eye exam is recommended annually if you’re under the age of 19 or over the age of 65. For adults aged 19 – 64, an eye exam every two years is recommended.

Book a comprehensive eye exam today!

You can also contact an optometrist if you’re experience a sudden change in vision, eye pain, redness, or have a foreign body in your eye. Your optometrist will help asses your condition and offer management options. Depending on the severity, you may be referred to a secondary specialist, such as an ophthalmologist.

At times, it can be confusion to navigate our healthcare system. If you’re unsure whether you need to see an optometrist or have questions about having a comprehensive eye exam, please contact us.

Ask yourself, “How are my eyes?”

Take a moment to ask yourself, “How are my eyes?”.

How are they feeling? Do you experience eye pain or fatigue? Sensitivity to light? Dry or itchy eyes? Does your family have a history of eye disease?

Now ask yourself, “How is my vision?”.

Do you experience blurry vision or problems focusing? Maybe the small print isn’t as easy to read as it once was? Do you find yourself squinting to see images clearly? Is driving, particularly at night, difficult? Have you noticed flashes or floaters in your vision?

And finally, “When was your last eye exam?”.

If you’ve answered yes to any of the questions above, it’s time to visit your optometrist.

If you haven’t had an comprehensive eye exam in the last 2 years, it’s time to schedule an appointment.

Even if you’re not experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, having a regular comprehensive eye exam is important as a preventative measure. During your eye exam, the optometrist will check you visual acuity and the health of your eyes.

Many eye diseases, such as cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration show no symptoms at first. These eye diseases can go unnoticed if you’re not having a regular eye exam.

Show your eyes the love they deserve (they’re an essential part of your vision after all). Book a comprehensive eye exam with one of our optometrists today!