Glaucoma

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is the leading cause of permanent blindness in the United States, and it is estimated to affect nearly one in every 50 adults. Glaucoma is often called the "silent bandit of vision" because in most cases vision loss appears gradually, unnoticed by the patient until it has become severe. Fortunately, with today’s technology and early detection, loss of sight due to most cases of glaucoma can be controlled.

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Because most people with glaucoma have no early symptoms or pain, it is important to have regular, routine eye exams so that glaucoma can be diagnosed and treated before long-term visual loss occurs.

Some of the early warning signs include:

A clear, watery fluid called the aqueous fluid is a filtrate of blood, which fills the chambers of the eye. This is a source of nourishment because it eliminates waste and cleans the eye. The process of the aqueous fluid flowing in and out creates a pressure that is called the intraocular pressure and the inflow versus the outflow of aqueous fluid is measured. When people have glaucoma, the inflow and outflow of this pressure is not working properly and can be categorized as open angle glaucoma or closed angle glaucoma. With open angle glaucoma, peripheral vision tends to be affected first and if not treated, it can result in a loss of vision.


Types of Glaucoma:

Open-angle glaucoma: This is the most common type of glaucoma. The structures of the eye appear normal, but fluid in the eye does not flow properly through the drain of the eye, called the trabecular meshwork.

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Angle-closure glaucoma: This type of glaucoma is less common, but can cause a sudden buildup of pressure in the eye. Drainage may be poor because the angle between the iris and the cornea (where a drainage channel for the eye is located) is too narrow. Or, the pupil opens too wide, narrowing the angle and blocking the flow of the fluid through that channel. The fluid accumulates and forces the iris to obstruct the trabecular meshwork. When this happens, the function of meshwork fails to respond to the aqueous fluid and this leads to an increase of pressure. Scars can form causing an irreversible block in the aqueous outflow. Vision can be lost.

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A routine eye exam is the best way to protect yourself from glaucoma because symptoms usually do not appear until vision has been affected. An early diagnosis can help stop the progression of this eye condition and there are treatments available.