Early detection: the key to fighting glaucoma


As one of the leading causes of blindness in Canada, glaucoma is called the silent thief of sight for a reason.  

It is a progressive and irreversible optic nerve disease that robs people of their vision. It does not display any symptoms in the early stages. 
 
Since people don’t feel pain or notice a change with the look of their eye they believe they’re fine and aren’t inclined to visit their optometrist.  
“By the time a patient is aware of their loss of vision, the disease process is typically advanced and has caused permanent damage to the optic nerves” says Dr. Lora Lee Hardy, Ontario Association of Optometrists member. “Vision loss from glaucoma cannot be reversed with treatment”.

Therein lies the danger.

Glaucoma subtly starts to affect a person’s peripheral vision, which usually goes unnoticed in the early stages. What they may eventually notice is a change in their central vision; similar to the ‘tunnel vision effect’ where the world around them slowly goes dark.  
 
Glaucoma subtly starts to affect a person’s peripheral vision, which usually goes unnoticed in the early stages. What they may eventually notice is a change in their central vision; similar to the ‘tunnel vision effect’ where the world around them slowly goes dark.  By then, the optic nerve would have already experienced permanent damage.

That’s why comprehensive eye exams by an optometrist are crucial.  

Glaucoma is diagnosed by detecting subtle changes in the optic nerve’s appearance and function over time. To detect these changes, an optometrist will carefully examine a patient’s optic nerve, conduct several tests, and consider several risk factors for glaucoma. Some risks include: 
  • Age 
  • Race 
  • Family history
  • Medical history (e.g. high blood pressure, low blood pressure, diabetes) 
  • Eye pressure
  • History of retinal disease or eye trauma 

“Early detection of glaucoma before you have experienced any noticeable loss of sight is the key to preserving your vision,” says Dr. Hardy. “If we are able to start treatment in the early stages, it is possible to stop the progression of the disease.” 
 Treatment of glaucoma differs depending on the patient. With consistent monitoring, eye medication, and at times working together with an ophthalmologist (an eye specialist), an optometrist can help slow the progression of the disease. Since glaucoma is a chronic disease, it must be monitored for life.   

The Ontario Association of Optometrists recommends adults receive an eye exam every one to two years. To find your local optometrist please visit: www.findaneyedoctor.ca


Are you covered? 


Tests and exams   OHIP coverage
Comprehensive eye exams  
Ages 0 – 19 and 65+: Yes

Ages 20 – 64:
  Patients diagnosed with glaucoma are covered for their annual eye examination as well as necessary follow-ups.  Patients who are suspected of having glaucoma (but not diagnosed with the condition) are not covered unless referred by a physician or nurse practitioner.
Additional tests and scans
(e.g. retinal photography and optical coherence tomography)

 Ages 0 – 19 and 65+: No
 Ages 20 – 64: No
 Visual field test
(i.e. assessing peripheral and central vision)

 Ages 0 – 19 and 65+: Yes
 Ages 20 – 64: Yes, if diagnosed with glaucoma or an OHIP-eligible condition requiring a visual field.