What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye disorder that causes progressive damage to the optic nerve and loss of nerve tissue resulting in loss of vison, especially peripheral vision.
The optic nerve is a bundle of about one million individual nerve fibers that transmits the visual signals from the eye to the brain. With the loss of nerve fibers, vision loss may result. Advanced glaucoma may even cause blindness.
What causes glaucoma?
There are many types of glaucoma and many theories about the causes of glaucoma. The exact causes is unknown. Although the disease is usually associated with an increase in the fluid pressure inside the eye, other theories include lack of adequate blood supply to the optic nerve.
The most common form of glaucoma, primary open-angle glaucoma, is associated with an increase in the fluid pressure inside the eye. The increase in pressure may cause progressive damage to the optic nerve and loss of nerve fibers. Not everyone with high eye pressure will develop glaucoma, and sometimes people with normal eye pressure will develop glaucoma. When the pressure inside an eye is too high for that individual, glaucoma will develop over time.
Will I go blind from glaucoma?
If diagnosed at an early stage, glaucoma can often be controlled and further vision loss may be minimized. If left untreated, first peripheral vision and eventually central vision will be affected and blindness may result.
How is glaucoma detected?
A comprehensive dilated eye examination will include tests for glaucoma. A simple painless procedure called tonometry measures the internal pressure of the eye. A measurement of corneal thickness, called pachymetry, helps confirm the eye pressure accuracy. A visual field assessment will measure the degree and sensitivity of retinal function. With an evaluation of the optic nerve, an optometrist can assess the potential of the development of glaucoma.
How is glaucoma treated?
The most common first-line treatment of glaucoma is prescription eyedrops that must be taken regularly. In some cases, laser therapy or surgery may be required. The goal of the treatment is to prevent loss of vision.