Glaucoma is an eye disease that damages the optic nerve. Damage to this nerve can occur when there is too much pressure in the eye and can lead to irreversible loss of vision.
Increased pressure in the eye is caused by the buildup of a fluid known as the aqueous humor, either because too much fluid is being produced or because the fluid isn't draining properly.
There are different types of glaucoma, the most common being open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma.
|Open-angle glaucoma||Angle-closure glaucoma|
|The eye's drainage channels gradually become blocked, causing a buildup of fluid.||The eye's drainage channels suddenly become blocked.|
|Develops slowly.||Medical emergency.|
|No symptoms at the onset.||Very painful.|
Below are the most commonly reported symptoms of glaucoma:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Eye pain
- Red eyes
- Dilation of the pupil (the dark area at the centre of the eye)
- Blurred vision or halos
- Pain exacerbated by light
Causes and triggers
Below are some of the factors that increase the risk of getting glaucoma:
- High eye pressure
- Family history of glaucoma
- Myopia (nearsightedness)
- Old age
- Previous eye injury
- Use of certain medications
- African, Asian, or Hispanic ethnicity
Trauma to the eye can also trigger an attack of angle-closure glaucoma.
There is no cure for glaucoma. However, a number of treatments can help control the disease and reduce damage to the optic nerve. Medicated eye drops are the most common, but there are also surgical treatments.
To prevent the disease from getting worse, it's very important that you use eye drops throughout the day, not just when you experience symptoms. Talk to your pharmacist before buying over-the-counter drugs or natural health products. People with glaucoma should avoid certain medications.
Because open-angle glaucoma has very few symptoms, screening for the disease is very important. This is why eye pressure and other tests are a routine part of optometrist appointments. It is recommended to have an eye exam every 1-2 years if you are between 18 and 65 years old, or once a year if you are over 65 years old.
When should I see a health care professional?
Consult your health care provider if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Eye pain or redness
- Blurred vision
- Decreased vision