Eye HeALTH & Wellness

Common Questions About Glaucoma

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma refers to a group of eye diseases that have certain common features which include elevated eye pressure, damage to the optic nerve and visual field loss.

How many people have glaucoma?

It is estimated that 3 million Americans have glaucoma, half of which are not aware that they have it because it usually has no symptoms. Untreated, glaucoma is a leading cause of irreversible blindness.

Who is affected by glaucoma?

Glaucoma can affect young and old. It is the leading cause of blindness in African Americans. People at risk include those over 60, African-Americans over 40, those with a family history of glaucoma, those with diabetes, and those who are very nearsighted.

How can I tell if I have glaucoma?

Early stage glaucoma can be detected with a simple test. Your ophthalmologist measures your intraocular pressure with a tonometer. Changes in the optic nerve are examined with an ophthalmoscope that enables your ophthalmologist to look through the pupil to see the back of your eye.

What are the signs and symptoms?

As the disease advances, there is blurred vision or a gradual loss of peripheral vision that cannot be restored. Your ophthalmologist can perform a series of simple tests that will help determine whether or not you have glaucoma or are likely to develop the disease before you have symptoms. Later stages of glaucoma may exhibit symptoms including: loss of peripheral vision, difficulty focusing on close work, seeing colored rings or halos around lights, headaches and eye pain, frequent changes of prescription glasses, and difficulty adjusting eyes to the dark.

Are there different types of glaucoma?

The most common is primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) which accounts for 90% of all cases. Others are closed-angle glaucoma, congenital glaucoma and normal-tension glaucoma.

Can glaucoma be prevented or cured?

Currently, glaucoma cannot be prevented or cured. Fortunately, with early detection and proper treatment, blindness from glaucoma can usually be prevented. The most important thing you can do is to have regular eye exams.

How is glaucoma treated?

Treatment begins if there is noticeable damage to the optic nerve, or if your ophthalmologist determines that your intraocular pressure is high enough to pose a threat to the optic nerve. Treatment can involve three stages: drug therapy, laser treatment, and filtration surgery. Your ophthalmologist surgically creates a valve in the wall of the eye using existing eye tissue, allowing the aqueous humor to drain. This therapy, along with careful monitoring, can halt the progression of glaucoma.