Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that result in damage to
the optic nerve, causing vision loss and possible blindness
if untreated. In many, but not all cases, glaucoma is
associated with rising pressure within the eye. Glaucoma is
a leading cause of blindness, affecting nearly 3 million
people in the United States. Because there are no early
symptoms, one half of people with glaucoma do not know they
have it. The good news is that with preventive eye
examinations, early detection, and treatment, it is possible
to control glaucoma and prevent blindness in most cases.
Clear fluid flows in and out of a space in the front of the eye
called the anterior chamber. Proper drainage of this fluid
keeps the eye's pressure at a normal level. In glaucoma, the
fluid drains out of the eye too slowly, resulting in a
buildup of pressure. If the pressure is not controlled,
damage to the optic nerve will occur, causing vision loss.
In the early stages of glaucoma, there is usually no pain
or vision change. Sight loss is a gradual process with
peripheral vision affected first. Unless diagnosed and
treated, central vision will eventually be affected.
Glaucoma can be detected through eye examinations and
special tests. These include evaluation of intraocular
pressure (pressure within eye), corneal thickness, the optic
nerve, the nerve fiber layer, the anterior chamber angle,
and visual fields.
Eye drops are usually effective in reducing and
controlling eye pressure. Surgery is considered if
medications have failed to control eye pressure. Surgery can
take the form of laser surgery or conventional surgery.
Periodic eye examinations with your eye care professional
are important to determine the effectiveness of treatment.
Although anyone can get glaucoma, there are factors that
increase the risk of developing glaucoma. The following
groups have an increased risk of getting glaucoma; anyone
over 60, people of African descent, people who have a family
history of glaucoma, and people with diabetes. The best way
to protect your vision from glaucoma is to have your eyes
examined through dilated pupils by an eye care professional
every one to two years.