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Glaucoma is damage to the optic nerve with corresponding defects in side vision (a.k.a. visual field defects) due to the death of retinal nerve cells. It is typically asymptomatic until very late in the disease course.
Glaucoma is a big deal
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world after cataracts. In the United States, glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in African-Americans. Some of the risk factors for glaucoma include elevated eye pressure (though some people with glaucoma have “normal” eye pressure), older age, family history of glaucoma, African ancestry, myopia, and perhaps diabetes and hypertension.
One of the funny things about glaucoma is that we don’t really know what causes it. For some reason, the liquid that is made inside the eye cannot drain properly and pressure builds up inside. So the main method of treatment is to lower the eye pressure. This usually starts with eye drops and can progress to laser treatments or incisional surgery if the disease continues to progress.
What can you do?
If you have a family history of glaucoma or an eye doctor thinks you are at risk of glaucoma, make sure you have regular eye exams. If any evidence of glaucoma is detected, treatment can be started and progressive damage prevented. No one ever has to go blind from glaucoma if it is properly managed.
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