Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes damage to the optic nerve. A progressive condition, glaucoma is characterized by buildup of excess fluid and pressure in the eye.

Currently, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States. Unfortunately, many of the symptoms associated with glaucoma do not emerge until it has progressed to an advanced stage. Early diagnosis is critical to limit vision loss.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma actually refers to a group of conditions that compromise the optic nerve, which is the nerve responsible for transmitting visual information from the eye to the brain. Glaucoma is usually linked to a high level of intraocular pressure. Fluid builds up in the back of the eye and presses against the optic nerve, causing permanent damage. Once vision is lost, it cannot be recovered.

Symptoms of glaucoma

Glaucoma has earned the nickname of the "silent thief of sight" because there are virtually no symptoms or signs of the disease that precede vision loss. The majority of people with glaucoma will experience no noticeable symptoms of the disease until their sight is already compromised.

There are two main types of glaucoma: open-angle glaucoma and acute angle-closure glaucoma.

Open-angle glaucoma is progressive; the first symptom will be loss of peripheral vision.

Acute angle-closure glaucoma results in a rapid rise of intraocular pressure, which causes: 

  • Sudden eye pain 
  • Decreased vision 
  • Eye swelling
  • Nausea 
  • Halos

Causes of glaucoma

Glaucoma is caused by increased intraocular pressure that results from fluid buildup in the eye. It is not always clear what prevents fluid from draining properly from the eye. Certain types of glaucoma are believed to be genetic; some people are born with an abnormally narrow drainage angle where the iris and cornea meet. Glaucoma is also linked to systemic diseases of the eye and use of certain drugs (like corticosteroids).

Treatment of glaucoma

To treat glaucoma, it is necessary to reduce the pressure that has built up in the eye. This is achieved with eye drops, oral medications, laser surgery, filtering surgery, or with drainage implants.

If you experience a sudden decrease in vision, make sure to see your eye doctor immediately.


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