Glaucoma: group of eye diseases leading cause of irreversible vision loss

Friday, January 13, 2023

Graphic of eye showing glaucoma damage
January is Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma consists of a group of eye diseases that leads to irreversible vision loss from damage to the optic nerve. With a lack of symptoms showing and no cure for glaucoma, it is vital to get early intervention to prevent blindness. 

While glaucoma is more common in patients over the age of 65, it can affect Canadians of all ages. That is why it is essential for patients to engage in ongoing management and monitoring throughout their lifetime to slow the progression. 

"Each type of glaucoma is different and usually has no symptoms. Half of people with glaucoma do not even know they have it," says Dr. Sarah MacIver, clinical associate professor at the School of Optometry & Vision Science. "This is why getting regular eye exams is important for patients to ensure they catch and treat the disease in the early stages”

Initial treatments for glaucoma include prescription medication and laser treatment. Surgery may be needed in later stages of the disease. 

There are some medical or ocular conditions associated with the development of glaucoma, but the most common forms of glaucoma have no associated conditions. This is known as primary glaucoma, which includes open-angle glaucoma, normal-tension glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma, and congenital glaucoma. 

The most common form is open-angle glaucoma, where the angle of drainage formed by the iris and cornea remains open, however other parts of the system may not drain properly. In this form there may be a slow and gradual loss of nerve fibers in the optic nerve that leads to a slow loss of vision.

Secondary glaucoma includes neovascular glaucoma, pigmentary glaucoma, exfoliation glaucoma, and uveitic glaucoma. When it comes to secondary glaucoma, often another condition causing the disease needs to be treated to lower the pressure on the eyes. This is the case with neovascular glaucoma where diabetes or high blood pressure may be the underlying cause. 

If you would like to ensure your eyes aren't impacted by glaucoma, you can book your comprehensive eye exam today: