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The eye contains aqueous humor, a liquid that provides it with support and energy. This liquid is secreted into the eye and then is eliminated through a small canal. If elimination is hindered, intra-ocular pressure rises causing Glaucoma. Glaucoma can affect one or both eyes.
In 9 cases out of 10, glaucoma develops slowly and goes unnoticed. This type of glaucoma is called open-angle glaucoma. On occasion, eye pain or headaches may indicate its presence. During this time, elevated pressure causes damage to the eye and causes visual disturbances. The affected eye(s) can go blind after a few years.
In 1 case out of 10, a sudden blockage impairs elimination of this liquid and intra-ocular pressure rises quickly. This is called angle-closure glaucoma and is considered a medical emergency. Surgery is needed immediately to prevent permanent loss of vision.
Glaucoma affects approximately 1% of the population, especially those older than 40 years of age. People with diabetes or hypertension are more at risk. Heredity plays an important role: Children of parents with glaucoma have a higher risk of having glaucoma than the general population.
Tonometry testing, using a special device, is performed to measure the eyes’ internal pressure. Optometrists or ophthalmologists perform this test during routine examinations. Using a small light, they can also look for damage related to glaucoma. Unfortunately, once damage has occurred it is irreversible.
NO. Early detection and treatment, however, can prevent loss of vision.
People with glaucoma use eye drops daily to reduce intra-ocular pressure and thus prevent loss of sight. They have to apply the drops every day for the rest of their lives even though they feel perfectly fine. In some cases, surgery can be performed: The canal is widened to allow more aqueous humor to be eliminated and intra-ocular pressure to decrease. Unfortunately, this surgery is not for everyone.
Eyes affected by glaucoma are sensitive to certain drugs. Certain cold or allergy products, for example, can cause complete closure of the elimination canal, resulting in a sharp increase in intra-ocular pressure. If you have glaucoma, check with your pharmacist or physician before taking any new medication.
Remember: Although glaucoma-induced damage is permanent, it can be prevented with early detection. If you are at risk, have your eyes examined regularly with tonometry testing. Your eyes are important!
Canadian Ophthalmological Society