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Risk Factors for Glaucoma: The Leading Cause of Blindness in Canada

Posted on March 12th, 2021

With all the talk about eye disease during World Glaucoma Week, it’s time to get down to figuring out exactly what it is and how it can affect your sight. Glaucoma, one of the leading causes of blindness in Canada, comes in varying forms and can lead to irreversible vision loss if not detected and treated early.

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that progressively degenerate the optic nerve, leading to loss of nerve tissue and potential blindness. The cause of these diseases are yet unknown, but some theories point to inadequate blood supply or poor perfusion.

Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness

More than 400,000 Canadians and 67 million people worldwide are affected by glaucoma. Glaucoma can cause blindness if it is left untreated and unfortunately, approximately 10% of patients who receive proper treatment still experience loss of vision.

Glaucoma remains incurable

There is no cure yet, however treatment is possible to prevent further loss of vision with medication and surgery. From babies to senior citizens, we are all at risk of developing glaucoma. Older people are at the highest risk, but you can be born with glaucoma and it can even be developed as a young adult.  

There may be no warning symptoms

There are virtually no symptoms when people develop primary open-angle glaucoma, the most common form of the disease. Usually, no pain is associated with increased eye pressure. Vision loss progresses from the peripheral edges of your sight. Patients often don’t notice anything until a significant amount of vision is missing.

Four types to know

Primary open-angle glaucoma: The most common form of glaucoma, primary open-angle glaucoma is when pressure is placed on the optic nerve. Aqueous fluid is produced inside the walls of the eye, but if too much of it is being produced within the eye or is not draining properly, it can create unwanted pressure. One theory behind why this happens is that when the eye’s drainage system becomes inefficient over time, the capillaries in your optic nerve become damaged, which in turn damages the optic nerve as a whole and decreases the amount and quality of information sent to the brain. This results in a loss of vision. Peripheral vision is affected first, followed by central.

Angle-closure glaucoma: Also known as closed-angle or narrow-angle glaucoma, is a faster moving ailment that can cause vision loss within one day. Angle-closure glaucoma is caused when the drainage angle in the eye formed by the cornea and the iris closes or becomes completely blocked. With age, the lens in your eye enlarges, pushing the iris forward and narrowing the space between the iris and the cornea. The aqueous fluid is then prevented from exiting your eye’s drainage system, creating the buildup of eye pressure and fluid. Angle-closure glaucoma can be chronic or acute.

Secondary glaucoma: This type of glaucoma can occur as the result of an injury, eye surgery, infection, or tumour growth in or around the eye, causing pressure to rise. It has also been linked to a variety of medical conditions, medications, and eye abnormalities.

Normal-tension glaucoma: In this form, eye pressure stays within the normal range, but the optic nerve is still damaged.

The best way to ensure you are not showing signs of glaucoma is to see your eye doctors regularly. If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, treatment can begin immediately. Contact your local FYidoctors to make an appointment for an eye exam today.