Glaucoma is an eye disease that damages the optic nerve. The optic nerve sends information from your eyes to your brain, telling it what you are seeing. Glaucoma permanently damages the optic nerve leading to reduced vision or blindness. It is called the sneak thief of sight because glaucoma has no symptoms. By the time someone notices changes in their vision, glaucoma has caused severe irreversible damage. The best defense against glaucoma is a comprehensive dilated eye exam once a year for those over 40 years old. If glaucoma is diagnosed in its early stages it is a very treatable condition.
There are several types of Glaucoma:
Chronic Open Angle Glaucoma is the most common type. It is often associated with elevated eye pressure. It develops slowly without pain and occurs more commonly as we age. African Americans are at a much higher risk than others for this type of glaucoma.
Angle Closure Glaucoma is not nearly as common. This type of glaucoma can occur suddenly. It is very painful and is an emergency condition. Caucasians and Asians are at a higher risk than others for acute angle closure glaucoma.
Secondary Glaucoma occurs due to some other condition or disease that has caused damage to the eye such as inflammation or an eye injury.
Congenital Glaucoma is a rare condition that is present at birth and manifests in the first few years of life.
The goal in treating glaucoma is to protect the optic nerve from damage by lowering the pressure in the eye. For most people, prescription eye drops successfully lowers the eye pressure, thus preventing progression and vision loss from glaucoma. Laser surgery (SLT) is an alternative treatment and it may be used along with prescription eye drops. SLT can be repeated and lowers eye pressure in about 80% of people for about 5 years. If prescription eye drops and laser surgery do not adequately prevent progression, glaucoma filtration or drainage implant surgery may be necessary.