Glaucoma is a group of diseases with the common characteristic of damage to the optic nerve, resulting in vision loss and potential blindness. Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) within the eye is a risk factor, though not the only one. In the normal eye, a clear fluid (aqueous humor) courses throughout the eye, draining through a spongy filtration area at the open angle of the eye (known as the trabecular meshwork) where the cornea and iris meet. When this system fails to work properly, fluid can build up inside the eye, resulting in abnormally high pressure.
Glaucoma is not always caused, however, by increased eye pressure. Nor will every individual with increased eye pressure develop glaucoma. While anyone can develop glaucoma, it most often presents itself in people over the age of 45. Additional risk factors for glaucoma include:
- family history of glaucoma
- African Americans over age 40 and Mexican Americans over the age of 60 are among high risk groups
When should I get checked for glaucoma?
Often patients seek help from a glaucoma specialist once symptoms start presenting themselves such as loss of their peripheral (side) vision. Unfortunately once glaucoma damages the optic nerve, the lost vision cannot be restored. That is why patients should not wait for the onset of symptoms. Regular, dilated eye exams are key to early detection of glaucoma so that a treatment plan can begin to stop or slow down the progression of glaucoma.
Is there more than one type of glaucoma?
The glaucoma disorder is usually divided into two groups—open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma. This distinction is important to ophthalmologists in determining the appropriate treatment for glaucoma.