WHAT IS GLAUCOMA?

Glaucoma is a disease in which the pressure inside the eye (not related to blood pressure), causes permanent, irreversible damage to the optic nerve. If adequate control of this pressure is not maintained, glaucoma gradually leads to complete blindness, and is the second leading cause of blindness in this country.

Clarity of vision is not affected by glaucoma. Glaucoma causes damage to our FIELD of vision (central vision and side vision). Visual loss begins in the periphery, where we are not aware of early changes. In most cases, glaucoma is painless. As a result, many cases of glaucoma go undetected until well into the disease process, unless suspected during a routine eye exam.

Glaucoma is sometimes hereditary (runs in families), but more often, may be found in only one family member. Increasing age for all people is the most important risk factor, though family history, diabetes, and those from African-American decent are important risk factors as well.

Though the normal range for eye pressure is between 10 and 21 mm of Mercury (the unit of pressure measurement), each person has a different range of pressure which his or her optic nerve can tolerate, such that a given pressure which is stable for one individual may be too high for another.

Some people will develop glaucoma even with eye pressure measuring well within the normal range.

Most people with glaucoma may be effectively treated with the use of different eye drops designed to either lower the pressure in the eye by decreasing the production of fluid inside (called aqueous humor), or by increasing the ability of this fluid to drain from the eye.

If the use of multiple eye drops is not sufficient in controlling the pressure, there are specific laser and surgical procedures designed to lower the eye pressure to an appropriate level.

Regular tests such as Visual Fields and optic nerve analyzers are used to help the doctor understand whether the glaucoma is stable, or progressing.

While there is no cure for glaucoma, severe visual loss is usually avoidable. The treatment of glaucoma represents an important, lifelong partnership between the doctor and the patient.

Learn more about Glaucoma.