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What is Glaucoma and How Can It Be Treated?

Glaucoma is the number one cause of permanent blindness worldwide. It is a disease that affects many Americans especially as they age. What is more frightening about it is that it's primarily a silent disease. The great majority of patients do not get pain, inflammation, halos, nor do they realize there is any vision loss until the very final stages of the disease. If detected early, blindness can be prevented with medical or surgical treatment. It is truly all about screening for the disease.

Glaucoma is an optic neuropathy, a problem with the optic nerve, the cable that transmits the picture from the eye to the brain. Mainly, when the eye pressure within the eye is elevated, the optic nerve sustains damage and atrophies which leads to progressive vision loss.

There are many subtypes of glaucoma, all leading to optic nerve damage. The most common subtype is primary open angle glaucoma. Risks for primary open angle glaucoma include: elevated eye pressure, age, family history of glaucoma, optic nerve appearance, African American race, and thin central corneal thickness. There is generally no pain with this type of glaucoma, and there is a gradual loss of peripheral vision (the visual field) over time.

Glaucoma is treated by reducing the eye pressure. This is primarily done with medications and laser procedures, then finally, surgery. If you have any of the risk factors for glaucoma or are concerned about your risks, a comprehensive eye exam and glaucoma screening is recommended. Please contact your eye care provider for further evaluation.