More than 400,000 Canadians and 60 million individuals worldwide are affected by Glaucoma today – a progressive condition and one of the leading causes of blindness.

There are two main types of glaucoma: Open-angle glaucoma (which accounts for at least 90% of all glaucoma cases) and Acute closed-angle glaucoma. These types of glaucoma are characterized by an increase in the intraocular pressure of the eyes, as well as damage to the optic nerve. Open-angle glaucoma is caused when the drainage canals become clogged. It generally develops slowly and is painless; therefore patients with open-angle glaucoma may not even notice any symptoms until it has progressed. Similarly, acute closed-angle glaucoma is also the result of blocked drainage canals, with intraocular pressure rising suddenly. Unlike open-angle glaucoma, symptoms of acute closed-angle glaucoma are very noticeable and you should seek immediate medical attention if you notice any sudden changes with your eyesight.

As mentioned, open-angle glaucoma typically does not present with any symptoms. Without symptoms, patients may not feel the need to go for an eye exam. When it comes to acute closed-angle glaucoma, symptoms are much more obvious. They include eye pain, blurred vision, and you may also notice halo-like images around lights. Even without symptoms, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, recommends seeing your optometrist for regular eye examinations – as your eye health is just as important as all other aspects of your health. A complete eye examination is also the only way to definitively detect glaucoma.

While glaucoma can affect people of all ages and walks of life, there are certain risk factors that can contribute. For example, it is more likely to affect Canadians over the age of 60, if there is a history of glaucoma in your family, or if you have certain medical conditions (such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease), or have suffered past eye injuries. Long-term use of certain medications like corticosteroids can also put individuals at risk of developing glaucoma.

Glaucoma can be treated a number of different ways – though because glaucoma is progressive, said treatment may need to be adjusted from time to time. In many cases, patients will be prescribed a medication to help reduce elevated intraocular pressure. However, if medication is not enough, surgery may also be considered to reduce eye pressure; including laser surgery as well as drainage implant surgery.

For more information on Glaucoma Awareness Month, follow Dr. Ali Ghahary on Twitter at @DrAliGhahary and visit the Canadian Association of Optometrists website at