The basic information one should know about glaucoma is that it is an eye disease that involves damage to the optic nerve, causing progressive, irreversible vision loss. It is usually associated with high eye pressure, more specifically elevated intraocular pressure (IOP). There is no cure, but the disease can be managed with medication and sometimes surgery so further vision loss and damage to the optic nerve is avoided. The most common early symptom is gradual loss of peripheral vision. Those who experience such vision loss, are over 60, or have a family member diagnosed with the disease should talk to their physician about glaucoma and have an eye exam every two years.
There are several types of glaucoma. The most common type is open angle glaucoma, which causes slow, gradual and irreversible vision loss. Secondary glaucoma occurs as a result of other medical conditions, like eye injuries or tumors. An important fact about glaucoma is that it is not always a gradual disease. Closed angle glaucoma is a type of the disease characterized by sudden, sometimes extensive, vision loss, intense eye pain and nausea. If one experiences these symptoms, it is important to seek immediate medical attention.
Knowing more about glaucoma, its symptoms and risk factors can reduce the risk of suffering debilitating vision loss. Common risk factors include being older than 60, having a family history of the disease, being extremely nearsighted, and having diabetes or hypertension. Genetics also play a role, and some babies are born with glaucoma. Having increased IOP is considered a risk factor for glaucoma, but not all people with glaucoma have high eye pressure.
Eye exams are the best way to discover glaucoma early, and early detection can help delay the progression of the disease. People who have any of the risk factors of glaucoma should get regular, comprehensive eye exams from an optometrist or ophthalmologist. The exam is non-invasive, can be done in the specialist's office and includes measuring IOP and dilating the pupil to examine the optic nerve for damage.
Physicians and eye specialists are the best resource for information about glaucoma and how to treat it. Glaucoma is incurable, but can be managed with prescription medication and sometimes surgery. Treatment focuses on reducing eye pressure and preventing further damage to the optic nerve. One of the most common forms of medication is eye drops, but various oral medications can also be prescribed. Surgery to relieve the elevated eye pressure can be done with traditional surgical methods or laser surgery.