Known colloquially as “the silent thief of vision”, Glaucoma is a leading cause of eyesight loss across Canada and the world. A common trait among many eye diseases is that they come quietly, without announcing their arrival and displaying virtually no symptoms until your vision is at least partially impaired or lost.
Glaucoma tends to strike later in life, though it is also not unheard of in children. Though the general points of the disease are the same (pressure on the optic nerve causes vision impairment), there are quite a number of different variations of Glaucoma.
Dr Kassam will use Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) to examine highly detailed images of the optic nerve, from which details of the progression and severity of the glaucoma can be drawn. Pachymetry, tonometry and digital retinal imaging may also be used to help precisely quantify the state of the disease. Like any eye exam, it should be relaxing and completely non-invasive, so there’s nothing to worry about.
There’s no single cause (or even a group of causes!) we use to actively prevent glaucoma. However, there are various risk factors which have been shown to increase your chances of developing the disease.
Since the vast majority of cases present with high intraocular pressure, treatment is generally oriented around lowering that pressure. This relieves the strain on your optic nerve and should alleviate symptoms. Unfortunately, any damage done to your vision will be permanent, so at this stage it’s all about managing and limiting progression of the disease.
Treatment can be done with eye drops, oral medication or surgery, depending which is the most suitable. All of these will be discussed following your exam, if you are diagnosed with any form of glaucoma.
Accounting for more than 90% of cases, open angle (aka chronic) glaucoma grows very slowly and under the radar. The eye’s fluid drainage canals get clogged, causing a buildup of Intraocular Pressure (IOP) which damages the optic nerve. As the optic nerves communicates between the eyes and the brain, this damage can easily mean vision loss.
This can escalate very rapidly with little warning, unlike open angle glaucoma. Sudden symptoms may include severe eye pain, headaches, blurred vision and haloes. If you experience any of these, you should arrange an emergency eye exam for immediate diagnosis and treatment. This is more common in people of Asian descent.
Unlike any other case of the disease, the symptoms (pain, damage to the optic nerve and vision impairment) are all present but without the increased IOP. Fortunately, this condition can be identified during a short eye exam with Dr Kassam by examining the optic nerve through the pupil using special magnifying equipment.
It is very rare, but it is possible for a child’s eye drainage canals to malform during growth, causing a type of glaucoma at birth. Laser surgery has become a recognised treatment for pediatric glaucoma and can be very successful in preventing total vision loss.
Like acute glaucoma, this can develop very quickly indeed. If you notice any of the symptoms for open angle glaucoma (below) occurring in a short space of time, it’s critical that you arrange an appointment and visit for an exam.