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Patient Stories: Living With Glaucoma and How Prairie Eye Care Helps

Glaucoma can be devastating to live with. It is a disease where high pressure in the eye damages the optic nerve, which sends visual images to the brain so we can see. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness, affecting more than 450,000 Canadians and over 60 million people worldwide. There is no known cure for glaucoma; however, treatments can prevent the disease from progressing, such as eye drops or surgery, depending on the individual case. The scary thing about glaucoma is that it rarely presents symptoms right away. More than half of the time, a patient has no idea they have glaucoma until much of their field of vision is already lost. This is why we screen for glaucoma at Prairie Eye Care at every comprehensive eye exam. Early diagnosis and treatment are the only way to delay or avoid vision loss. Here are a few stories from patients living with glaucoma and methods they have taken control of their eye health.

Thomas is in his 50s and has a family history of glaucoma - his mother and maternal grandfather both developed glaucoma in their early 60s. Knowing he is at higher risk for the disease, Thomas is sure to get regular annual eye exams. At his most recent exam, Thomas's optometrist noticed that his eye pressure was a little higher than normal, and Thomas was referred to an ophthalmologist. Thomas is diagnosed with open-angle glaucoma, the most common form of glaucoma. Since he is familiar with the disease, Thomas knows there is no cure. Still, because he caught the disease early, before developing any symptoms, Thomas is currently treating his disease with daily prescribed eye drops. So far, he has delayed vision loss but will continue to monitor the condition with regular eye exams.

Amanda went to see her eye doctor, thinking she needed a new prescription for glasses when she was having trouble seeing. She was aware of a few "dead areas" in her peripheral vision, particularly on one side, and was finding it difficult to read. Amanda's optometrist immediately diagnosed her with open-angle glaucoma after a visual field test and finding damage to the optic nerve. She had already lost a lot of vision in one eye. Amanda was prescribed several daily eye drops to control the pressure in her eyes and preserve her remaining vision. After a few years, Amanda underwent a trabeculectomy for her left eye - a surgery that created a new pathway to drain fluid inside the eye. Amanda remains on eye drops for her lifelong condition and will likely undergo another eye surgery in the future to try to prevent further vision loss. She now advocates for regular eye exams because she knows how important early treatment is for eye diseases like glaucoma.

We don't often think about what our sight loss would mean. We need to be able to properly see to enjoy our favorite hobbies, go to work, or drive. Partial blindness can put us at a higher risk of falls or injuries. The fact is anyone can get glaucoma, and with this disease, there is not yet a treatment to recover your vision once it has been lost; there are only treatments to stop the progression of the disease. The staff at Prairie Eye Care are passionate about your eye health. Regular eye exams with your optometrist or ophthalmologist are so important for early diagnosis and treatment for eye diseases such as glaucoma. If you have questions or concerns, be sure to get in touch with your eye doctor immediately.

*Names and details on these patient stories have been altered.*

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