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April 15, 2014

Glaucoma: The importance of eye exams

Glaucoma, which is generally caused by an increase in pressure within the eye, leads to a loss of the visual field. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to a complete loss of sight. This condition is, in fact, one of the main causes of blindness in Canada.

Types of glaucoma

Open-angle glaucoma

This type constitutes 80 to 90 percent of glaucoma cases. It progresses very slowly over a period of 10 to 20 years, gradually getting worse and leading to irreparable vision field loss.

Since this loss is painless, most peopleaffected only realize there is a problem when their loss of vision is considerably advanced. Regular eye exams allow for the early detection of the disease, helping to prevent damage.

Closed-angle glaucoma

This acute form of the disease constitutes a medical emergency. In less than 30 minutes, a person can experience symptoms such as:

  • Severe eye pain and visible redness of the eye
  • Blurry vision and halos around objects
  • Headaches, nausea and vomiting.

Total or partial vision loss can then occur quickly. A doctor must therefore be consulted as soon as symptoms appear.

Causes

The eye is made of a fluid called aqueous humour, among other things. If this fluid does not drain properly, it can increase the pressure within the eye. Over time, this pressure damages the optic nerve, which is responsible for carrying images to the brain. Once the optic nerve is affected, the vision field is gradually reduced.

Here are some of the risk factors associated with glaucoma:

  • Age
  • Severe myopia
  • Family history
  • Diabetes 
  • Certain corticosteroid-based medications. 

If you have glaucoma, certain over-the-counter medications can aggravate your condition. Consult a health professional before taking any new medication.

Screening

Knowing that the vision loss caused by glaucoma is permanent, it is easy to understand why having regular eye exams is so important, even in the absence of pain or apparent decline in your vision.

Generally, people under 65 years of age should have their eyes checked every year or every two years, while those over 65 should have an annual exam. Your eye care specialist can determine the rate of visits that suits you best.

Treatment

There are many treatments to slow the progression of damage caused by glaucoma.

  • Prescription ointments and eye drops are the most common forms of treatment. They help to lower pressure in the eye by helping to drain the aqueous humour or decreasing the amount produced.
  • Certain medications in pill form can also help to drain the aqueous humour. The risk of side effect is higher than with eye drops, however.
  • In certain cases, the eye care specialist may even recommend surgery. Whether traditional or laser, surgery aims at treating the obstructed channel, which will help to remove the secretions and lower intraocular pressure.

By taking their medication and undergoing regular eye exams, most people with glaucoma can lead normal lives.

In-store health services

Do you have questions about glaucoma and its treatment? Talk to your pharmacist. He’s there for you! 

Services in pharmacy are the sole responsibility of pharmacist-owners. Only pharmacists are responsible for pharmacy practice. They only provide related services acting under a pharmacist-owner's name.

The uniprix.com Website deals with health-related topics. The information presented has been validated by experts and is accurate at the time of posting. In no way does it replace the opinion of a health care professional. Uniprix Inc. and its affiliated pharmacists accept no liability whatsoever in connection with the information provided on this Website.