Eye Care Glossary

Glaucoma

Glaucoma refers to a group of eye conditions that lead to damage to the optic nerve. This nerve carries visual information from the eye to the brain.

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Glaucoma is an eye disease in which the passages that allow fluid in the eye to drain become clogged or blocked. This results in the amount of fluid in the eye building up and causing increased pressure inside the eye. This increased pressure damages the optic nerve which connects the eye to the brain. The optic nerve is the main carrier of vision information to the brain.

Damage to it results in less information sent to the brain and a loss of vision. The exact cause of glaucoma is not known and, it cannot currently be prevented. It is one of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S. But. if detected at an early stage and treated promptly, glaucoma can usually be controlled with little or no further vision loss.

That's why regular visit to an optometrist is so important. People of all ages can develop glaucoma, but it most frequently occurs in people:

  • who are over age 40
  • who have a family history of glaucoma
  • who are very nearsighted
  • who are diabetic
  • who are from African or West Indies descent

Of the different types of glaucoma, primary open angle glaucoma often develops gradually and painlessly, without warning signs or symptoms. This type of glaucoma is more common among African Americans than Caucasian. It can cause damage and lead to blindness, making regular eye examinations particularly important for African Americans over age 35.

Another type, acute angle-closure glaucoma, may be accompanied by:

  • blurred vision
  • a loss of side vision
  • appearance of colored rings around lights
  • pain or redness s in the eyes
Coherence Tomography(OCT) - Glaucoma Management

Regular eye examinations are an important means of detecting glaucoma in its early stages, and will include:

  • Tonometry - a simple and painless measurement of the pressure in the eye.
  • Ophthalmoscopy - an examination of the back of the eye to observe the health of the optic nerve.
  • Visual Field Test - a check for the development of abnormal blind spots.
  • Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) — This device can scan the 10 layers of the retina which is less than 1mm to detect early changes in diabetic patients and is also used to measure the nerve fiber thickness of the optic nerve to detect and manage glaucoma.

Research has shown:

  1. African-Americans are affected 4 to 5 times more often than Caucasian . Americans and are 6 to 15 times more likely to go blind from glaucoma.
  2. For all races, the risk for glaucoma increases with age, especially after age 40 (although it can occur at any age).
  3. There also is a hereditary tendency: Glaucoma occurs at least twice as often among people who have blood relatives with glaucoma.
  4. Risk also is greater for people who have had an eye injury or eye surgery.

People with glaucoma need to have the progress of the disease carefully monitored. Many treatments exist that slow or even halt vision loss from glaucoma but cannot restore lost sight. Several drugs and surgical or laser procedures have been developed through research over the past four decades. Most recently, results were announced based on a study by the NEI that showed laser therapy may be as effective as medication as a first treatment for primary open-angle glaucoma, the most common type.

Glaucoma can usually be treated effectively by using eye drops or other medicines. In some cases surgery may be necessary. Unfortunately, any loss of vision from glaucoma cannot usually be restored. But, early detection, prompt treatment and regular monitoring can enable you to continue living in much the same way as you have always lived.

Protect yourself by having regular eye examination through dilated pupils. Let your eye doctor know if you are in one of the high-risk groups for glaucoma.

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