Glaucoma is a disease that affects the optic nerve located at the back of your eye. The optic nerve is essential for vision, sending messages of the objects you see to your brain where they can be “decoded” and translated into actual images. Glaucoma occurs when the natural fluid inside your eye fails to drain properly, resulting in a buildup of pressure that compresses the nerve fibers, resulting in permanent vision loss. The disease occurs most commonly in people with specific risk factors, including:
family history of glaucoma
high blood pressure
prior eye injury
history of elevated pressure inside the eye
long-term use of steroid medications
presence of some other types of eye diseases
Asian or African descent
The primary risk factor for glaucoma is older age. In fact, the National Eye Institute (NEI) estimates about 3 million people age 45 and older have glaucoma and many don't even know they have the disease.
Glaucoma treatment usually begins with the use of special eye drops to help reduce the pressure inside your eye. Sometimes, oral medications are also prescribed. When medications are not enough to keep the intraocular pressure under control, surgery may be needed to help promote proper drainage and prevent fluid and pressure from building up. Both traditional and laser procedures are available to treat men and women with glaucoma.
Because glaucoma typically causes no symptoms until it has progressed to the point of vision loss, having regular dilated eye exams with an ophthalmologist skilled in recognizing the disease in its earliest stages is your best defense. It's also important to know your risk factors so you can take steps to reduce or eliminate those risks and decrease the likelihood of developing glaucoma.