Glaucoma - Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma causes unusual pressure in the eye leading to blurred vision, sudden eye pain and vision loss.  The most common type of glaucoma develops over time, without pain or any obvious symptoms.  Glaucoma can sneak up on you, and by the time you notice that something is wrong your eye may already be irreversibly damaged.  Due to a variety of anatomical reasons, normal eye fluid called aqueous humor can become blocked as it flows through and out of the front of the eye. If pressure inside the eye becomes too high, it can restrict the flow of blood to the retina and result in loss of peripheral vision.

Who is at risk for glaucoma?

You are a candidate for glaucoma is you’re over 40, however anyone can get it. There is an increased risk of glaucoma at an earlier age for those of specific ethnicities such as Inuit, African Canadian, Hispanic, Japanese, Scandinavian, Irish or Russian descent.

Glaucoma can be genetic, so if your parents or grandparents had glaucoma chances are high you may get it, too.  People with diabetes or who take medication such as prednisone or other steroids can also be at higher risk.

There’s a good chance that you may develop glaucoma if you have had eye trauma either by force or by an irritant. If you have had recurring eye infections or surgery for other eye conditions, such as corneal transplants or retinal repair surgery, glaucoma may be in your future.

Symptoms of glaucoma

Because glaucoma can develop without pain or discomfort, you may not realize you have it.  Most symptoms of glaucoma show up when the condition is advanced.  Seek immediate medical attention if any of these abnormal symptoms occur:

  • Blurred vision or loss of peripheral vision (side vision)
  • Sudden eye pain
  • Unusually blood shot eyes
  • Nausea
  • Eye appears hazy (especially in children)
Diagnosis and treatment

Visiting your Optometrist annually to ensure early detection of glaucoma is a critical step in the prevention of vision loss.  With specialized equipment, the Optometrist can examine your optic nerve and check the pressure of your eye by performing tonometry.  These examinations are quick, easy and painless.

If changes to your eye indicate early glaucoma, there are several treatment options to reduce the pressure.  They include prescription eye drops and laser or microsurgery.

Glaucoma can’t be prevented, however it can be controlled.  Most people who develop glaucoma will enjoy excellent vision for years to come.

You only have one set of eyes. If you are concerned about your vision and the health of your eyes, make sure to book regular visits with an Optometrist.