Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in North America, affecting more than 400,000 Canadians. There are different kinds of glaucoma, which is why it is described as a group of related diseases. Glaucoma affects the retinal cells, which send visual information to the brain through the optic nerve. In glaucoma, the optic nerve is damaged, which leads to vision loss. This damage is often associated with elevated pressure in the eye. There is no cure for glaucoma, but early detection and treatments can help save your vision.
In most types of glaucoma there are no early symptoms that can be self-detected. Glaucoma can develop in one or both eyes. It is important to have regular eye exams because your eye doctor can conduct tests to detect glaucoma and save your vision.
If you experience any of these symptoms, please visit your ophthalmologist:
- Loss of peripheral (side) vision
- Halos around lights
- Eye pain and/or redness
- Blurred or decreased vision
Glaucoma treatments aim to lower your eye pressure and prevent vision loss. Drugs are often delivered as eye drops. Laser treatment or surgery can also help to drain fluid from the eye. The following five categories of medications are commonly used to treatment glaucoma:
- Beta-Blockers are used to lower intraocular pressure (IOP) by decreasing the amount of fluid in the eye (aqueous humour).
- Prostaglandin analogues and prostamides are used to lower IOP by increasing the outflow of fluid from the eye.
- Alpha-agonists are used to lower IOP by decreasing the production of fluid in the eye.
- Carbonic Anhydrase Inhibitors (CAIs) are used to lower IOP by decreasing the production of fluid in the eye.
- Combined Agents allow you to take multiple drugs in a single eye drop.
These medications involve different side effects, which you should discuss with your doctor. Please review the glaucoma fact sheet below to learn more details about the different medications available.
There are many treatment options for glaucoma. Talk with your doctor to learn what is best for you.