Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the U.S. However, if it is detected and treated early, blindness or severe loss of vision can be prevented. Glaucoma occurs when pressure in the eyeball increases. If not detected and treated early, pressure damages the delicate optic (eye) nerve. If one is fortunate, glaucoma can be detected and treated before there is a build-up of pressure in the eye or eyes.
For unknown reasons, in glaucoma the fluid which bathes the eye and nourishes nearby tissues, drains out of the eye too slowly. As the fluid builds up, the pressure in the eye rises. The greater the pressure that builds up in the eye, the greater the damage to the optic nerve. Unless the pressure is controlled, it may damage the optic (eye) nerve and other parts of the eye. This disorder is more common in African-Americans and Latinos than in the general population.
Key Risk Factors for Glaucoma:
above 40 years of age
being African-American (significantly increased risk)
A comprehensive dilated eye exam can reveal more risk factors, such as high eye pressure, thinness of the cornea, and abnormal optic nerve anatomy. In some people with certain combinations of these high-risk factors, medicines in the form of eyedrops reduce the risk of developing glaucoma by about half.
Glaucoma treatments include medicines, laser trabeculoplasty, conventional surgery, or a combination of any of these. While these treatments may save remaining vision, they do not improve sight already lost from glaucoma. Immediate treatment for early-stage, open-angle glaucoma can delay progression of the disease. That’s why early diagnosis is very important.
Another recommended source for information on glaucoma is Prevent Blindness America, formerly the National Society to Prevent Blindness. Tel. (800) 331-2020. Their website can be visited directly from our Resource Directory.
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