Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders leading to progressive damage to the optic nerve and is characterized by loss of nerve tissue, resulting in loss of vision. The most common form of glaucoma, primary open-angle glaucoma, is associated with an increase in the fluid pressure inside the eye; this increase in pressure may cause progressive damage to the optic nerve and loss of nerve fibers. Advanced glaucoma may even cause blindness.







What causes glaucoma?







There are many types of glaucoma and many theories about the causes of glaucoma. The exact cause is unknown. Although the disease is usually associated with an increase in the fluid pressure inside the eye, other theories include lack of adequate blood supply to the nerve.







What are the risk factors for glaucoma?







People over age 60 are at increased risk for the disease. For African Americans, however, the increase in risk begins after age 40. In addition, having a family history of glaucoma will increase your chances of getting the disease, as there seems to be a genetic component in many cases. Some studies indicate that certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure will increase the likelihood of developing glaucoma. Severe trauma such as being hit in the eye would also increase your risk.







How is glaucoma diagnosed?







Glaucoma is diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination. To establish a diagnosis of glaucoma, several factors must be present: Because glaucoma is a progressive disease, meaning it worsens over time, a change in the appearance of the optic nerve, a loss of nerve tissue, and a corresponding loss of vision confirm the diagnosis. Some optic nerves have a suspicious appearance, resembling nerves with glaucoma, but the patients may have no other risk factors or signs of glaucoma. These patients should be closely followed with routine comprehensive exams to monitor for change.







How is glaucoma treated?







The treatment of glaucoma is aimed at reducing intraocular pressure. The most common first line treatment of glaucoma is usually prescription eye drops that must be taken regularly. In some cases, systemic medications, laser treatment, or other surgery may be required. While there is no cure as yet for glaucoma, early diagnosis and continuing treatment can preserve eyesight.