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Glaucoma Center

WHAT IS GLAUCOMA?

GlaucomaGlaucoma, also known as the “thief of sight,” is an eye disease that can create vision loss.  Glaucoma refers to a group of diseases that have certain common features including intraocular pressure that is too high for the health of the eye, damage to the optic nerve, and visual field loss.  The eye pressure becomes high because the drainage system of the eye is not working properly.  This is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States.  It is a disease that typically affects older people, but it can occur at any age.

WHAT CAUSES THE PRESSURE TO BECOME ELEVATED?
When the drainage system of the eye, referred to as the trabecular meshwork, is not working properly, then the fluid in the eye, called aqueous humor, does not flow out of the eye as quickly as it should.  The drainage system lies in a part of the eye called the angle, which is between the outer layer and the iris (colored part) of the eye.  This angle can be open or closed.

WHAT TYPES OF GLAUCOMA EXIST?
•    Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma
•    Normal Tension Glaucoma
•    Angle-Closure Glaucoma
•    Acute Glaucoma
•    Pigmentary Glaucoma
•    Exfoliation Syndrome
•    Trauma-Related Glaucoma
•    Childhood Glaucoma

ARE THERE ANY SYMPTOMS?
In most cases, the disease is not noticed in the early stages because there is no pain and no noticeable change in vision.  The only way to know if someone has glaucoma in its early stages is to have an eye examination by an eye doctor.  A routine eye exam can prevent vision loss, especially if you have glaucoma.

WHO IS AT RISK FOR GETTING GLAUCOMA?
Glaucoma can occur in people of all ages from children to older adults, but is more likely to develop in people who are over 60 years of age.  Glaucoma can also occur in people who are very nearsighted or diabetic.  Glaucoma also occurs more frequently in African Americans age 40 and over.  Glaucoma can also run in the family.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD I BE EXAMINED FOR GLAUCOMA?
It is important to have regular eye examinations so that an early detection can be made to prevent vision loss.

IS THERE A CURE?
There is not a cure for glaucoma.  But there are treatments that can control the pressure inside the eye.  Once diagnosed, it requires constant, lifelong care.  Continual observation and treatment can reduce the damage to the optic nerve and help prevent vision loss.

HOW IS GLAUCOMA TREATED?
Treatments for glaucoma include:
•    Eye drops
•    Oral medications
•    Laser surgery
•    Microsurgery

Glaucoma is most commonly treated with eye drops or laser surgery and this will help lower the eye pressure.  By lowering the pressure, damage to the optic nerve can be slowed or stopped.