Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve and can result in vision loss and blindness. With early detection, however, serious vision loss can be avoided. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of vision loss in the U.S. today mostly due to the fact that it has no symptomology. Glaucoma does not blur your vision, give you headaches or cause any discomfort.
Studies have shown that the largest risk factor for developing vision loss from glaucoma is an increase of the pressure of the fluid inside the eye. Fluid is produced and drained out of the eye continuously nourishing nearby tissue. If less fluid drains out of the eye than is produced, the increase in the pressure may damage the optic nerve causing glaucoma and vision loss.
There are several factors that increase your risk for developing glaucoma besides increased eye pressure. African-Americans over the age of 40 and everyone over the age of 60 are at higher risk as well as anyone with a family history of glaucoma. High blood pressure and diabetes are also conditions that increase your odds for developing glaucoma. A comprehensive dilated vision examination will reveal other risk factors like corneal thickness and abnormal optic nerve anatomy.
Again there are no symptoms with glaucoma. If allowed to progress untreated, patients will slowly loose peripheral vision. Glaucoma can usually be treated with drops once or twice/day that reduce the pressure inside the eye and prevent damage. Laser surgery is an option sometimes to help reduce the pressure if the area where the fluid drains out of the eye is blocked.
It is truly ironic that glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the US since it is one of the easiest of the sight-threatening diseases to treat. Having regular eye exams can help you detect this preventable disease early on, so you can have vision for life.