Glaucoma occurs when the pressure inside the eye is high enough to pinch off the circulation of the optic nerve in the back of your eye. The optic nerve is like a telephone cable. When the cable is damaged you start to lose the connections between the eye and brain. This leads to gradual blindness if not treated properly.
Yes, a family history of glaucoma increases your risk of developing glaucoma by two to ten times depending on the closeness of the relationship. If you have glaucoma, all of your blood relatives need to be informed and they need regular eye exams to watch for it. Age is also a risk factor. After age 40 the risk starts to rise each year.
Clear fluid flows in and out of small space at the front of the eye called the anterior chamber. This fluid bathes and nourishes nearby tissues. If this fluid drains too slowly, pressure builds up and damages the optic nerve. Though this buildup may lead to an increase in eye pressure, the effect of pressure on the optic nerve differs from person to person. Some people may get optic nerve damage at low pressure levels while others tolerate higher pressure levels.
Glaucoma tends to run in families. If you have several family members with glaucoma, you are at a significantly increased risk of developing glaucoma. Glaucoma is more prevalent as people get older. It is also more common in people with diabetes, uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure), or certain other medical conditions. Your risk also increases if you are severely nearsighted or farsighted or if you have a history of certain eye conditions or eye injuries.
No. Glaucoma is like high blood pressure in that medication does not cure the disease, but it does treat it, preventing further damage. Fortunately we have many good medications available now that are very effective and have few side effects. . New and exciting medications are also under development now.
The frequency of your checkups depends on the severity of your glaucoma. If the glaucoma is extremely mild or if you are a low-risk glaucoma suspect, you may only need to be examined on an annual basis. For more severe glaucoma, examinations may need to be done monthly, or possibly even more frequently, until the glaucoma stabilizes. Once the glaucoma is stable, examinations every 3-6 months are usually appropriate.
If diagnosed at an early stage, glaucoma can often be controlled and little or no further vision loss may occur. If left untreated, first peripheral vision and then central vision will be affected and blindness may result.
Unfortunately, any vision loss as a result of glaucoma is usually permanent and cannot be restored. This is why regular preventive eye examinations are so important. Low vision rehabilitation services, that include the use of specialized optical devices and training, may benefit individuals with severe vision loss.
No, but early detection and treatment can control glaucoma and reduce the chances of damage to the eye and a loss of sight.