Glaucoma — The silent thief of sight

A Rimbey optometrist is raising awareness about one of the leading causes of vision loss in Alberta – Glaucoma.

A Rimbey optometrist is raising awareness about one of the leading causes of vision loss in Alberta – Glaucoma.

A new provincial survey reports that nearly half of Albertans (44 percent) who don’t have a regular optometrist believe they don’t need one, or that they don’t have eye problems. The fact is, many eye diseases don’t have symptoms, and without a comprehensive eye examination performed by a doctor of optometry, it’s impossible to determine if you have, or are at risk of developing an eye disease.

March 9-15 is World Glaucoma Awareness Week, and local optometrist, Dr. Kevin Hesterman wants to remind Rimbey residents to consult with their optometrist about glaucoma prevention and detection.

“A comprehensive eye examination is often the only way to detect glaucoma,” says Dr. Hesterman. “During your exam, your optometrist will look into your eye to assess the health of the optic nerve, measure your field of vision and perform a simple and painless procedure called tonometry, which measures the internal pressure of your eye.”

Glaucoma impacts children and adults, but is most frequently seen in people over the age of 40. Those with diabetes, high blood pressure or a history of eye injuries are at even greater risk of developing the disease.

“Glaucoma often develops gradually and painlessly without noticeable symptoms,” says Dr. Hesterman.

While the exact cause is not completely understood, glaucoma is commonly caused by the overproduction of fluid and/or a decrease in fluid being drained from the eye, which damages the optic nerve. As the fibers that make up the optic nerve are damaged due to increased pressure on the nerve, the amount and quality of information sent to the brain decreases and a loss of vision occurs.

“If diagnosed at an early stage, eye drops and laser treatment can control the disease and in some cases little or no vision loss will occur,” says Dr. Hesterman. “If left untreated, peripheral vision is affected first, followed by central vision loss during late stages of the disease, which can then lead to complete blindness.”

In Alberta, anyone who requires medical treatment for eye related disease or illness is covered by Alberta Health. Medically necessary optometric services include:

  • monitoring for diabetes and glaucoma;
  • retinal detachment, defects and diseases;
  • eye infections or injuries;
  • inflammation of the eyelid;
  • foreign objects in your eye;
  • sudden changes in vision; and
  • pre and post-operative care for cataract patients.

Additionally, the cost for an annual eye examination is covered for children and teens up to age 19 and adults 65 years and older.