Glaucoma is one of the most common causes of blindness, affecting more than 250,000 Canadians. In most cases, it is completely asymptomatic, therefore regular eye health exams are critical to ensure early diagnosis and treatment. Glaucoma is an eye disease that occurs when the optic nerve is damaged. Our optic nerve can be likened to an electrical cable made up of millions of smaller wires. These many wires are responsible for carrying all the images of what we see to the brain.

High intraocular pressure (pressure inside the eye) is one of the leading risk factors associated with glaucoma. The front portion of the eye is filled with clear fluid called the aqueous humour which continually flows through the eye and is then absorbed by the eyes’ drainage system. The intraocular pressure depends on the amount of this fluid in the eye. If a blockage arises within the eyes’ drainage system the pressure inside the eye will increase; this damages the optic nerve fibres (wires of the electrical cable) and one by one they begin to die, resulting in permanent loss of peripheral vision.

There are two main types of glaucoma. The most common form is open angle glaucoma (OAG). OAG occurs when the eyes’ drainage system is blocked and pressure gradually in- creases. Most people have no symptoms until much damage has been done. If left untreated , OAG causes gradual loss of peripheral vision. OAG usually respond wells to treatment, especially if caught early.

The second type is angle closure glaucoma (ACG). A simple test can be done by your optometrist to determine if your angle is normal (wide) or at risk of ACG (narrow). Symptoms associated with angle closure glaucoma include headaches, eye pain, nausea, blurred vision or rainbows around lights.

Your optometrist will routinely perform these tests to watch for glaucoma: tonometry (measurement of intraocular pressure) and ophthalmoscopy (assessment of the retina and optic nerve, and visual fields (test of the side/peripheral vision). Additional tests may also be recommended if you are considered at risk.

Anyone can be affected by glaucoma, but certain factors do increase your risk, including high intraocular pressures, family history, age (individuals over age 60 are six times more likely to develop glaucoma), taking steroid medications or being of African-American decent.

Whether you fall into the higher risk categories or not, regular eye health examinations by your optometrist are essential to early detection and diagnosis of glaucoma. Early diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma can help preserve your sight.

The optometrists at Advance Eye Care Center are accepting new patients; please call 306-586-7036 to arrange an appointment or visit our website at