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What is Normal Pressure Glaucoma?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2018
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Normal pressure glaucoma is an eye condition where damage to the optic nerve consistent with glaucoma is observed, but the patient's intraocular pressure is normal. This condition is also known as normal tension glaucoma. There are treatments available for the management of this condition and early intervention can improve the prognosis for the patient. People who notice visual disturbances and changes in their vision should see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible, and it is advisable to get a comprehensive eye examination every one to two years to check for early signs of vision problems, especially as people age and are at increased risk for vision loss.

In normal pressure glaucoma, the patient's optic nerve is damaged, and dark spots and smears appear in the vision. On an eye test, the patient's visual field will be obscured, and a physical exam can show damage to the optic nerve. Although the damage looks like that seen in conventional glaucoma, where pressure on the nerve damages the cells in the optic nerve, a pressure test on the eye will be normal.

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The causes of this condition are not known. Risks seem to increase in people with a family history of any kind of glaucoma, suggesting genetic susceptibility, and the condition is also more common in people of Japanese descent. Normal pressure glaucoma is also a potential complication of cardiovascular disease. People with known risk factors for vision problems like glaucoma may be advised to get eye examinations more regularly to protect their vision.

Treatments for normal pressure glaucoma usually start conservatively. One treatment option for normal pressure glaucoma is medications. It is also possible to perform surgery on the eye, with laser procedures being one option, while more invasive eye procedures are also available to address the vision distortions. Some patients find that treating underlying cardiovascular problems improves their vision, and making changes like eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and exercising more can sometimes be beneficial as well.

Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in older adults. Once damage to the optic nerve starts and vision loss begins, it is not reversible, but the damage can be arrested with treatment. Regular eye examinations to check intraocular pressure and assess the patient's eye health will help doctors identify the signs of conditions like glaucoma early, before damage noticeable to the patient sets in. Early treatment can prevent long-term issues like loss of sight in one eye or other problems.

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