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Glaucoma

What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a condition that is characterized by increased pressure in the eye and impaired eyesight, ranging from slight vision loss to total blindness. Glaucoma is not a single disease, but a group of eye diseases that have one feature in common: progressive damage to the optic nerve caused by increased pressure within the eyeball. The pressure comes from a clear fluid called the aqueous humor. This fluid helps to nourish the eye, and flows in and out of the eye through a mesh-like channel. In people with glaucoma, the fluid does not drain properly and pressure builds up in the eye, damaging the nerve that transmits images to the brain. As this deterioration of the optic nerve continues, vision worsens, and eventually, blindness can result.
Glaucoma treatment cannot restore vision that is lost. But treatment can prevent additional loss of vision from occurring. That is why screening and early detection of glaucoma are so important.
Are there different types of glaucoma?
There are two main types of glaucoma found in adults:

  • Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type, found in approximately 90 percent of glaucoma patients in the United States. In open-angle glaucoma, the structures in the eye appear to be normal, but fluid does not drain properly because of tissue changes in and along the drainage passage. This type of glaucoma has no early warning signs and can go undetected for years.
  • Chronic or acute angle-closure glaucoma accounts for about 10 percent of glaucoma cases in this country. Here, the normal drainage passage in the eye is narrowed and then becomes blocked.

If either type of glaucoma is diagnosed early enough, a simple laser treatment can be used to improve the drainage.

Who is most likely to get glaucoma?
Glaucoma is more commonly found in people over the age of 35. You are more likely to get glaucoma if you:

  • Are of African-American, Irish, Russian or Scandinavian descent
  • Have family members with glaucoma
  • Have poor vision
  • Have diabetes
  • Take corticosteroid (Prednisone) medications

Glaucoma is usually present in both eyes, although one eye may be more affected than the other.
What are the symptoms of glaucoma?
Most patients with glaucoma do not notice any symptoms at first, until they have lost some of their peripheral (side) vision - and often this is not recognized by the patient until the disease has progressed. When other symptoms are present, they may include:

  • Pain in the eye (If you experience sudden, severe eye pain, headache and blurred vision, your internal eye pressure may be very high. You should call your ophthalmologist or go to an emergency room right away.)
  • Redness in the eye
  • Vision in one or both eyes appearing hazy
  • Seeing halos around lights
  • Narrowing of vision (tunnel vision)

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