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Better Living Author March 15, 2019

Glaucoma: Causes, Types , Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

The week of March 10 is World Glaucoma Week. How much do you really know about Glaucoma? According to American Optometric Association, Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that lead to progressive damage to the optic nerve tissue, resulting in vision loss. It is one of leading causes of blindness in Canada.

What are the causes of Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is the result of damage to the optic nerve. As this nerve gradually deteriorates, blind spots develop in your visual field. For reasons that doctors don't fully understand, this nerve damage is usually related to increased pressure in the eye.

Elevated eye pressure is due to a buildup of a fluid (aqueous humor) that flows throughout the inside of your eye. This internal fluid normally drains out through a tissue called the trabecular meshwork at the angle where the iris and cornea meet. When fluid is overproduced or the drainage system doesn't work properly, the fluid can't flow out at its normal rate and eye pressure increases. This increased pressure is responsible for the damage on the optic nerve, causing irreversible damage. Once the optic nerve is damaged, the brain can no longer receive information from the eye, leading to loss of vision.

There are 2 main types of Glaucoma:

1. Open-angle Glaucoma – This is the most common of all Glaucoma cases. It is characterized by a slow clogging of the drainage canals that typically prevent too much liquid from building up in the eye. Too much liquid results in increased eye pressure that can damage the optic nerve.

2. Closed-angle Glaucoma - It is caused by an acute blockage of the drainage canals of the eye, resulting in a sudden increase in intraocular pressure. Unlike the open-angle glaucoma, this type occurs very quickly.

Who are at risk?

  • Age – people over age 60 are at increased risk for the disease. The risk of developing glaucoma increases slightly with each year of age.
  • Family history – having family history of glaucoma increases the risk of developing glaucoma from four to nine times.
  • Race – African Americans are significantly more likely to get glaucoma than Caucasians.
  • Physical Injuries – Internal damage from being hit in the eye can result in increased eye pressure.

What are the signs and symptoms?

  • Seeing halos around lights
  • Vision loss in one or both eyes
  • Eye pain or pressure
  • Cloudy looking eyes or whites of the eyes
  • Chronic eye redness
  • Seeing rainbow rings around lights
  • A severe and sudden headache – If you experience this along with one or more of the other symptoms noted, get treated immediately
  • Sudden and severe eye pain out of the blue

How is Glaucoma diagnosed?

Early detection and treatment are the keys to preventing the loss of sight. Glaucoma is diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination.

  • Regular eye exam – the eye specialist may simply look though the pupil after dilating the pupils using dilating eye drops and then proceeding to a complete eye examination.
  • Tonometry test – this is used to check the intra-ocular pressure in the eye. Freezing (anesthetic) drops are instilled in your eyes and a device called a tonometer is used. The “normal” intra-ocular pressure is usually between 10-21 mmHg.
  • Gonioscopy -in order to see if a person has open-angle or close-angle glaucoma, a special lens (gonioscopy lens) is placed on the eye to view the drainage system of the eye.
  • Perimetry – this test is to check if the field of vision has been affected by glaucoma. This test measures your side and central vision.

How is Glaucoma treated?

Glaucoma can’t be cured. Treatment is aimed at reducing pressure in the eye. Regular use of prescription eye drops is the most common and often the first treatment. You may also need laser treatment or surgery.

How can Better Living Home Care Services help?

There is no cure for Glaucoma. Keeping eye pressure under control can slow or stop damage to the optic nerve and continued loss of vision. Our caregivers assist and provide medication reminders like taking oral medications and eyedrops on time as prescribed by doctors. Companions and Care Aides are licensed to drive you to your scheduled eye examination appointments as well.

For those who are affected by vision loss, Better Living Home Care Services offer a free in-home assessment to determine the safety of your home as well as identify risks related to your visual problems. If you are finding yourself having trouble managing on your own, we would love to help you explore your options regarding home care assistance. We provide home care services ranging from respite care to end of life care. Call our Client Care Coordinator at (604) 765-1827 for more information Give us a call at (604) 765-1827 for more information.

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