What is it? Glaucoma refers to a group of disorders that all
cause increased pressure within the eyeball. In a normal eye, a liquid
called the aqueous humor is continuously produced and drained. In
glaucoma, aqueous humor builds up and increases pressure within the eye.
Such increased pressure can damage the optic nerve directly or restrict
blood flow, thus damaging the optic nerve indirectly. This damage may
lead to blind spots in the visual field. If left untreated, glaucoma can
cause permanent blindness.
Circulation of Aqueous Humor
Image modified from National Eye Institute, National
Institutes of Health
|Glaucoma may cause:
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Sensitivity to light and glare
- Problems with night vision
- Blurred vision
Image modified from National Eye Institute, National Institutes of
- Age: as people get older, the risk of glaucoma increases.
- Race: African-Americans are about 3-4 times more likely to have
glaucoma than Whites.
- Family History: if a parent has glaucoma, his or her children have a
chance of having glaucoma. If a sibling has glaucoma, brothers and
sisters have a 50% chance of having glaucoma.
- Diabetes: people with diabetes have a 3 times higher risk of having
glaucoma than people without diabetes.
- Eye Injuries: injuries to the eye increase the risk of having
- Corticosteroid Use: people who use corticosteroid drugs have a higher
risk of having glaucoma.
- Tonometry: eyeball pressure is measured. Abnormally high eyeball
pressure may suggest glaucoma.
- Optic Nerve Examination: an eye doctor will examine the retina and
check for damage.
- Visual Field Examination: a patient's visual field (area in front)
will be mapped to check for visual loss.
Image from National Eye Institute
National Institutes of
There is no cure for glaucoma and if the optic nerve is damaged, it
cannot be fixed. The effects and progression of glaucoma can be
controlled, however, by lowering the pressure within the eye.
- Drugs that reduce the production of aqueous humor: beta-blockers,
alpha-adrenergic agents, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors.
- Drugs that increase the outflow of aqueous humor: prostaglandins,
- Surgery to improve the outflow of aqueous humor.
- Implantation of a device to drain fluid in the eye.
|Did you know? ||
- Glaucoma affects 3-4 million people in the US and 50
million people worldwide.
- Glaucoma is a leading cause of vision loss
in the US.
- Normal eye pressure ranges from 10-22 mm Hg.