It’s called the silent thief of sight. Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the working class, according to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB).
Sharon Pratt is a Service and Volunteer Services Coordinator at CNIB in Prince George. She was diagnosed with glaucoma at only 14 years of age. Pratt says there are over 1,500 people in the region that are visually impaired; many of whom have glaucoma.
Doctor Micheal Dennis is an Optometrist at FYidoctors in Prince George. He says there are two types of glaucoma. The first is closed-angle glaucoma. “That’s when the fluid drains out, closes up and all the sudden the pressure goes up really high inside your eye. That would result in a person having significant discomfort, pain, red eye and that one is easy to detect.”
The second, more common type, is open-angle glaucoma.”Open-angle glaucoma is called the silent thief of vision, as a result there is no symptoms. I have had this happen many, many times. People come in and have no idea they have glaucoma and we diagnose them.”
Dennis says genetics plays a role in developing the condition. He adds African Canadians, Inuit and South Asian people are at a higher risk of getting glaucoma. While it’s not preventable, he says it can be treated and controlled. The key is early detection. “To detect it you need to have a complete eye exam done on a regular basis. Assuming you have no risk factors, if you are over 65 you should be coming every year. If you are between 45 and 65, every two years would be good.”