Medical Author: Lawrence J. Schwartz, M.D.
Medical Editor: Leslie J. Schoenfield, M.D.,
Worldwide, glaucoma affects about 6 billion people and is the leading cause
of irreversible blindness. In fact, as many as 6 million individuals are blind
in both eyes from this disease. In the United States alone, according to one
estimate, over 3 million people have glaucoma. As many as half of the
individuals with glaucoma, however, may not know that they have the disease. The
reason they are unaware is that glaucoma initially causes no symptoms, and the
loss of vision on the side (periphery) is hardly noticeable.
Glaucoma At A Glance
- Glaucoma is a disease that is often associated with
elevated intraocular pressure, in which damage to the eye (optic) nerve can
lead to loss of vision and even blindness.
- Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the
- Glaucoma usually causes no symptoms early in its
course, at which time it can only be diagnosed by regular eye examinations
(screenings with the frequency of examination based on age and the presence of other risk factors.
- Intraocular pressure increases when either too much
fluid is produced in the eye or the drainage or outflow channels (trabecular
meshwork) of the eye become blocked.
- While anyone can get glaucoma, some people are at
- The two main types of glaucoma are open angle
glaucoma, which has several variants and is a long duration (chronic)
condition, and closed angle glaucoma, which is a sudden (acute) condition.
- Damage to the optic nerve and impairment of vision
from glaucoma are irreversible.
- Several painless tests that determine the intraocular
pressure, the status of the optic nerve and drainage angle, and visual fields
are used to diagnose glaucoma.
- Glaucoma is usually treated with eye drops, although
lasers and surgery can also be used. Most cases can be controlled well with
these treatments, thereby preventing further loss of vision.
- Much research into the causes and treatment of
glaucoma is being carried out throughout the world.
- Early diagnosis and treatment is the key to preserving sight in people
For more in-depth information please visit the Glaucoma
Center.Last Editorial Review: 7/7/2004