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Barrie eye doctor – what you need to know about glaucoma

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Coming to an optometrist means that you are getting a complete eye exam, not just a prescription check.  While the spectacle prescription is important, people often do not realize the other things that we screen for, one of which is glaucoma.  Here is the skinny on glaucoma.  You may have heard the term, but not the types, the relevance, the treatments, or the effects of glaucoma on the quality of life.

Glaucoma is often thought of as “high pressure in the eye”, but that is only one of the possible causes of glaucoma.  In reality, glaucoma is damage to the optic nerve (the nerve that transmits information from your eyes to your brain and gives you sight).  Two main causes of this damage are lack of oxygen to the optic nerve (ex. for patients with conditions such as sleep apnea) and mechanical compression from an elevated eye pressure.  The two main types of glaucoma are closed and open angle glaucoma.

When glaucoma is not controlled, damage to the optic nerve will result in the loss of peripheral vision.  It is often called “the sneak thief of sight” since there are no symptoms and once vision is lost, it’s permanent.   As much as 40% of vision can be lost without a person noticing.  In end stage glaucoma, the affected eyes will end up with tunnel vision.  Early detection and early treatment to minimize nerve damage is critical to preserving vision, and ensuring good quality of life.  The first line of treatment is with anti-glaucoma medications (usually eye drops).  If this does not contain the damage, surgery may be indicated (usually selective laser trabeculoplasty).

Glaucoma is often suspected first by your optometrist by means of a number of tests:
i) intra-ocular pressures (or the pressure within the eyes)

ii) appearance of the optic nerve heads (through an examination of the back of the eyes after the pupils have been dilated)

iii) pachymetry to measure the thickness of the front surface of the eyes (researchers have found that patients with thinner corneas are more likely to develop glaucoma with elevated eye pressures)

Over 60 million people worldwide have glaucoma.  Experts estimate that half of them don’t know they have it.  Combined with our aging population, we can see an epidemic of blindness looming if the importance of regular eye examinations to preserve vision is not made aware to our patients.

So be proactive and make sure your eyes are healthy today and tomorrow.  See Dr. Mei-Ling Chan Optometry in Barrie for your eye health examination.

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