By Steve Bond, Pharmacist

Glaucoma is the second most common cause of vision loss in seniors in Canada after age-related macular degeneration. It is often known as “the silent thief of sight” since it slowly takes away one’s vision without being noticeable. Glaucoma causes damage to the nerve that connects the eyes to the brain. This is most often related to increased pressure within the eye. Your eye is like a ball filled with fluid (called Humour — although an excess of it isn’t funny). This fluid is constantly being made and drained from the eye. When something affects this balance, the fluid increases and so does the pressure. This increased pressure can then damage the nerve.

Over time the damage to the nerve develops into a loss of peripheral (side) vision. If glaucoma is untreated, it could advance to later stages where central vision narrows to “tunnel” vision, or it may result in complete loss of vision. Early detection and treatment are essential to preventing severe vision loss or blindness.

Risk factors for glaucoma include:

  • elevated pressure in the eye
  • increased age (over 60)
  • if you’re of African or Asian descent
  • family history
  • diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure or thyroid
  • eye injury or disease
  • long-term use of steroids.

Regular eye exams are the key to detecting glaucoma early enough to successfully treat and prevent further progression of your condition. Often glaucoma presents with no noticeable symptoms and when vision loss has occurred, it cannot be reversed. If you are diagnosed, it is important that you see your ophthalmologist regularly and are vigilant with your eye drops. Today there are many different types of drops for glaucoma, so if one drop isn’t working or isn’t tolerated, your pharmacist and doctor can provide insights to finding one that suits you. Take care of yourselves and each other