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March 12, 2010

Take a Closer Look at Glaucoma

To mark Glaucoma Awareness Day, March 12th , take a closer look at glaucoma.

Glaucoma is the second most common cause of blindness worldwide. It is a group of diseases that refer to damage to the eye's optic nerve. This damage is usually caused by high intraocular pressure.

Did You Know?

Did you know anybody can get glaucoma? Even people with 20/20 vision can still have glaucoma. People in high risk groups include:

- Anybody over 50 (age is a risk factor for glaucoma)

- People with a family history of glaucoma

- Those with increased intraocular pressure

- Certain races - African and Hispanic people are at higher risk for developing glaucoma

- Those who have had damage to the eye in the past or an eye injury

- Diabetics

- People who are near sighted (and use reading glasses)




There is a fluid your eye produces that pumps through your eye. Typically that fluid drains through a trabecular meshwork that basically acts like a drainage system. When there's a blockage in that drainage system, pressure builds up in your eye. That pressure is what causes damage to the optic nerve and can result in vision loss.

There are different types of glaucoma. The most common type is called primary open angle glaucoma and it happens when the drainage system isn't working the way it should. People can also be born with glaucoma. There is also low tension glaucoma where a person has normal eye pressure but still has damage to their optic nerve.

"You cannot cure glaucoma and you cannot restore vision that's lost, or damage to the optic nerve," explains Pam Adolph, Opthamology Outreach Nurse, Opthamology Program at Misericordia Health Centre. "The goal of treatment is to prevent any further damage and to maintain and preserve the vision you have. Early detection is important."

Treatment varies depending on the type of glaucoma and extent of the damage to the optic nerve. People who catch it early will often be prescribed eye drops to slow production of the fluid and improve drainage. Laser therapy and surgery are other options, which may work to improve the drainage system.

There are no signs or symptoms for glaucoma. In fact, half the people who have glaucoma don't even know it. "Many are diagnosed when they go to their ophthalmologist for a regular examination," says Pam. "We really stress the importance of regular eye exams."

Related

Ophthalmologist or Optometrist: Can You See the Difference?

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