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Eye Disease in the Asian Community

Asian Girl wearing Eyeglasses in Markham

There is a diverse range of risk factors for developing eye disease. You are likely familiar with the association between aging, genetics, and eye problems, but did you also know that your ethnic background plays a role in increasing the odds of particular eye diseases?

If you are a member of the Asian community in Markham, ON, what ocular disease should you watch out for? Studies have shown that Asians are at a significantly greater risk for primary angle-closure (acute or narrow-angle) glaucoma. This type of glaucoma happens when the iris blocks the eye’s drainage system (“the trabecular meshwork”), which leads to a build-up of fluid that raises the intraocular pressure. Eventually, the increased pressure damages the optic nerve – thereby affecting your vision.

Does primary angle-closure glaucoma (PACG) cause symptoms?

Glaucoma in general is characterized by an increase in the pressure inside your eye. If the angle closes suddenly, your eye pressure may spike and cause symptoms such as eye pain, headaches, nausea, seeing halos around lights, and blurry vision. PACG is a rarer and more aggressive form of glaucoma, and when left untreated it can cause an irreversible loss of vision.

In fact, this eye disease presently causes 90% of all cases of blindness in China.

The trick is to be aware of your personal risk and use this knowledge to catch glaucoma as early as possible, so your eye doctor can prescribe treatment that can prevent vision loss.

How can you know if you have narrow angles?

Only a comprehensive eye exam can identify the angle of your iris. That’s why it is critical to visit your Markham, ON, eye doctor regularly. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends everyone should have a complete dilated eye exam at age 40, in order to establish a baseline for eye health. Depending upon the results of your eye exam, your eye doctor will advise you on how often to return. Once you are 65, you will probably need yearly eye exams.

During your eye exam, our eye doctor will use gonioscopy, which involves using a microscope and a specialized contact lens, to examine the angle. If you are determined to be at high risk for angle-closure glaucoma, your eye doctor may treat your eye with laser peripheral iridotomy, a laser procedure that creates a drainage hole in your iris. This hole prevents the buildup of fluid and prevents an acute angle-closure from happening.

During your eye exam in our Markham, ON, office, we may also perform optic nerve imaging and visual field testing to help diagnose your risk of developing angle-closure glaucoma.

Why is angle-closure glaucoma more common in Asians?

Anatomy is one reason that Asians may be predisposed to PACG. In Asian eyes, the iris attaches to the sclera (whites of the eye) in such a manner that there is an anatomically narrower angle with less of the drainage system exposed.

Myopia – Not a Disease, But Also Common in Asians

Myopia, commonly known as nearsightedness, describes the vision condition of having trouble seeing objects far away. This condition affects more than 80% of Asians. While myopia is not technically an eye disease, it has a major effect on your vision! Fortunately, it is usually corrected efficiently with prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses.

In children, undetected myopia can cause learning problems, and in adults it can lead to headaches and eye fatigue, amongst other troublesome visual symptoms. The risk of nearsightedness is another reason why it’s essential for everyone – kids and their parents – to visit our friendly and qualified eye doctor in Markham, ON, for comprehensive eye exams with vision testing!