Glaucoma is a disease that occurs when the pressure inside your eye – your intraocular pressure (IOP) increases, eventually pressing against the optic nerve located at the back of your eye, causing damage that can result in permanent vision loss and even complete blindness. It develops when the fluid that naturally occurs inside your eye doesn't drain properly, resulting in fluid buildup and mounting pressure. More than three million Americans have glaucoma, and because it causes no symptoms in its earliest stages, many people don't even know they have the disease, placing them at increased risk for vision loss.
Although anyone can develop glaucoma, there are some factors that make developing the disease more likely, including:
older age (risk increases substantially over age 55 to 60 years)
people with a family history of glaucoma
those who have had certain types of injury to the eye
Glaucoma usually causes no symptoms until vision loss begins, which is why it's often referred to as the “silent thief of sight.” As glaucoma progresses, symptoms can include a gradual loss of peripheral (side) vision, with the field of vision becoming narrower and narrower over time.
Diagnosis is performed with a simple test used to measure the pressure inside your eye. Most tests involve directing a stream of air at your eye to measure the IOP. A dilated exam is also important to detect other changes associated with glaucoma and to determine how far the disease has progressed.
Although glaucoma cannot be cured, it can be managed. Many people benefit from medication designed to lower the IOP, but some may need surgery or laser treatment to help improve drainage inside the eye. Your treatment recommendation will be based on your specific needs.
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