Glaucoma is a potentially serious eye condition in which the optic nerve becomes damaged. Most often, this is due to high pressure inside the eyeball (intraocular pressure, or IOP). This pressure happens because of a build-up of extra fluid.
Among seniors, glaucoma is the second biggest cause of vision loss in Canada, and many people don’t even know they have it. Glaucoma usually causes the loss of peripheral (side) vision and can cause blindness if left untreated.
There are two types of glaucoma: open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma. The majority of people with glaucoma in Canada have the open-angle type.
Often, open-angle glaucoma has few symptoms, so the condition can go undetected until your vision is lost permanently. Angle-closure glaucoma, however, is an obvious medical emergency and serious symptoms usually come on suddenly and can include pain and changes in vision.
What causes glaucoma?
High intraocular pressure (IOP) causes glaucoma, but not everyone with high IOP develops the disease. People can have high IOP because of their genetics, and you may be at higher risk if you are older, have a low diastolic blood pressure, have diabetes, are nearsighted, or are black, Asian or Inuit.
Glaucoma can also be caused by other things, like eye injury, eye inflammation, complications of surgery, or taking certain medications.
Can vision loss from glaucoma be prevented?
Yes! If it is detected early, vision loss from glaucoma can be slowed down or stopped. Often though, glaucoma can be damaging your vision and you might not even know you have it until it’s too late. Be sure to schedule regular eye exams to protect your eyes from glaucoma and preserve your vision.
How do I deal with vision loss from glaucoma?
If your glaucoma has progressed and you have vision loss, there are many resources available for you to maintain your independence and quality of life:
- Be sure to put away items quickly to avoid clutter
- Install lights in dark spaces (like closets and staircases)
- Remove area rugs to avoid tripping
- Reduce glare
- Use assistive devices designed for people with vision loss
- Use high-contrast materials to maximize the vision you have (like dark plates on a light tablecloth)
- Wear sunglasses in bright sunlight
Is there anything else I can do?
Evidence shows that you may be able to protect your vision against glaucoma and other eye conditions by eating well and getting the right amount of vitamins. The following fruits and vegetables are thought to be especially good for your eyes: