Glaucoma is a disease in which the pressure inside the eye builds up and cannot drain.  This pressure can cause damage to the optic nerve inside the eye.  The optic nerve is the part of the eye that carries images we see to the brain.  If damage to the optic nerve occurs, blind spots can develop.  These blind spots can go undetected until there is significant, irreversible damage.  Many patients do not experience any symptoms  during the early stages of glaucoma.  Loss of sight can often be prevented with early treatment.  Routine eye exams and early detection are crucial.

Your eye makes a small amount of clear fluid that circulates inside the front portion of the eye.  To keep a healthy pressure inside the eye, it also has to drain some of that fluid through a microscopic drainage system.  In an eye with glaucoma, the fluid doesn’t drain like it should and the pressure builds up and can cause damage to the optic nerve.

Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma.  The drainage tubes in the trabecular meshwork inside the eye do not work properly.  This leads to a slow build-up of fluid and increased pressure.  It is usually painless and vision changes are very slow.

Closed-angle (or narrow angle) glaucoma occurs when the iris is too close to the drainage angle (where the iris meets the cornea) causing a blockage  to the entrance of the drainage system.  There can be a sudden build-up of pressure causing pain and loss of vision.

Glaucoma can be detected by regular eye examinations with your eye doctor.  The only way to prevent vision loss is by early detection and treatment.


Risk Factors

Elevated eye pressure

Race – African Americans and Hispanics

Age – individuals over 40


Family history of glaucoma

High blood pressure


Long term steroid use

Eye injuries


Once glaucoma is diagnosed, your doctor will discuss treatment options.  Eye drops and/or oral medications can help lower the eye pressure. Laser surgery may be possible to help your eye drain more easily.  In more severe cases, it may be necessary to have a microsurgical procedure (filter surgery).


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