Are you guilty of taking your eyes for granted?  If your eyesight seems unchanged, you might have considered skipping the annual eye exam, but there is more to be gained from that appointment than a new prescription!  A thorough eye examination can detect underlying eye health issues that may not present any obvious symptoms, whichis the case with glaucoma.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable sight loss. This disease, known as the silent thief of sight, advances quietly, causing irreparable damage before the appearance of obvious symptoms or pain. Most people won’t notice a change in their vision because glaucoma damage begins slowly in the peripheral field of vision, where we are least aware of visual clarity. Even moderate peripheral vision loss can go unnoticed, as our brain allows the good eye to compensate for the affected eye, providing what appears to be clear vision.

Glaucoma is a disease that attacks the eye’s optic nerve. It is linked to a build-up of pressure in the eye – generally a result of insufficient ocular drainage or excess production of aqueous humour, but may also be caused by insufficient blood flow to the optic nerve. People over the age of 60 are at higher risk, however depending on the type of glaucoma, it can develop in anyone at any age. Primary open angle, the most common form of glaucoma is age-related and will often affect the elderly, but different forms like congenital, pigmentary and secondary glaucoma can affect babies, children and adults. 

Certain forms of glaucoma are hereditary. This doesn’t mean that if it runs in your family you are going to have glaucoma, but it significantly increases your risk. It is important that your optometrist is made aware that there is a family history of this disease so your eye health can be more closely monitored. 

Given that there is no cure for glaucoma yet, regular complete eye examinations allowing early diagnosis and careful regular observation are crucial. There are numerous ways the eyes are examined to detect glaucoma including visual field testing, measuring the eye’s pressure and through a dilated eye exam which allows the eye doctor to observe the back of the eye and the entire optic nerve. Dilation of the pupil is a specific test done during a comprehensive eye exam or subsequent examination when deemed necessary by the optometrist.  

Thankfully there are treatments for this disease to help slow its progression. The most important place to start is lowering the pressure in the eye. The optometrist will regularly monitor the eye health and prescribe treatments such as medicated drops or surgery or both, depending on the patient’s specific needs. These treatments can minimize the chances of developing further vision loss issues. 

Book your eye exam appointment today to further discuss this disease with your eye doctor and to make sure that your eyes are healthy.