Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders which cause progressive damage to the optic nerve and is characterized by the loss of nerve tissue and eventually in the loss of vision. Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of this disease and is associated with an increase in the fluid pressure within the eye. This increase in pressure may cause progressive damage to the optic nerve through the loss of optic nerve fibers. This may result in the loss of vision in the eye. Advanced glaucoma may even cause blindness. High eye pressure alone does not mean that a person will develop glaucoma, and many people who have normal eye pressure may develop other forms of glaucoma.
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the U. S. and most often occurs in people over 40. Anyone who has a family history of glaucoma, African-Americans over 40 and Hispanics over 60 are at an increased risk of developing glaucoma. Other risk factors include thinner corneas, chronic eye inflammation, and using medications that increase the pressure in the eyes.
Currently, glaucoma cannot be prevented, but when diagnosed and treated early, it can be controlled. Medication or surgery can slow or prevent additional vision loss, but vision already lost cannot be restored. If you are at risk for glaucoma you should have an annual dilated eye exam as a preventive health measure.
How is Glaucoma Diagnosed?
Glaucoma is diagnosed during a comprehensive eye examination. In order to establish a diagnosis of glaucoma, several factors may be present:
- Optic Nerve Pathology
- Changes in Visual Field
- Abnormal Intraocular Pressure
How is Glaucoma Treated?
The primary purpose of treating glaucoma is to reduce the intraocular pressure. The most common first line treatment of glaucoma is usually prescription eye drops that must be taken regularly. In some cases, systemic medications, laser treatment, or other surgery may be required. While there is no cure as yet for glaucoma, early diagnosis and continuing treatment can preserve eyesight.