What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a disease in which the optic nerve is damaged, leading to progressive, irreversible loss of vision. It is often, but not always, associated with increased pressure of the fluid in the eye.
What are the symptoms of glaucoma?
At first open-angle glaucoma has no symptoms. Your vision stays normal and there is no pain. As glaucoma remains untreated, people may notice that although they see things clearly in front of them, they miss objects to the side and out of the corner of their eye. Without treatment, people with glaucoma may find that they suddenly have no side vision. It may seem as though they are looking through a tunnel. Over time, the remaining forward vision may decrease until there is no vision left.
How is glaucoma detected?
Most people think that they have glaucoma if the pressure in their eye is increased. This is not always true. High pressure puts you at risk for glaucoma. It may not mean that you have the disease. Whether or not you get glaucoma depends on the level of pressure that your optic nerve can tolerate without being damaged. This level is different for each person. Although normal pressure is usually between 12-21 mm Hg, a person may have glaucoma even if the pressure is in this range. That is why an eye examination is very important. To detect glaucoma, the following tests should be performed: visual acuity, visual field, pupil dilation, and tonometry.
Can glaucoma be treated?
Yes. Although you will never be cured of glaucoma, treatment often can control it. This makes early diagnosis and treatment important to protect your sight.
Glaucoma treatments include:
Medicine: It is in the form of eye drops and pills. Some cause the eye to make less fluid. Others lower pressure by helping fluid drain from the eye. Laser surgery: Laser surgery helps fluid drain out of the eye. It is often done after trying medication. In many cases, you will need to keep taking glaucoma drugs even after laser surgery.
What can you do to protect your vision?
If you are being treated for glaucoma, be sure to take your glaucoma medicine every day and see your eye care professional regularly. You can also help protect the vision of family members and friends who may be at high risk for glaucoma – Afro-Americans over age 40 and everyone over age 60. Encourage them to have a dilated examination every two years.