A primer on glaucoma

Glaucoma is actually a group of eye diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve carries images from the retina to the brain, giving us the ability to see.  Glaucoma creates pressure on the optic nerve and damages the fibers, creating blind spots in a person’s field of vision.


Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness if it goes untreated.  Even when people are treated, there still remains the possibility that blindness will occur.


Glaucoma cannot be cured, but it can be controlled.  Depending on the nature and severity of glaucoma, a patient may be prescribed eye drops, pills or undergo laser procedures to prevent or slow down the amount of damage to the eye.


Everyone is at risk for glaucoma.  Although older people are at a higher risk, even babies can be affected by the disease.  Risk factors for glaucoma include:


  • Age
  • African ancestry
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • Nearsightedness
  • Steroid use
  • Thin cornea
  • Past injuries to the eye


With glaucoma, there can be no symptoms and no pain associated with the increased eye pressure that causes the disease.


Open angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma.  The drainage angle of the eye can become blocked and that leads to pressure on the optic nerve.


  • Warning signs that you may have glaucoma include:
  • Difficulty focusing on near or far objects
  • Unusual sensitivity to light or glare
  • A change in the color of the iris
  • Trouble adjusting to dark rooms
  • Double vision
  • Excessive tearing or watery eyes
  • Dry eyes with itching or burning
  • Seeing spots
  • Sudden hazy or blurred vision
  • Halos or rainbows around a light source
  • Sudden loss of vision in one eye


The best way to combat glaucoma is by getting regular eye check-ups that include screening for glaucoma.  As you get older, annual eye exams are recommended.


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