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Facts About Glaucoma

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What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of diseases usually associated with increased pressure within the eye. (Some types of glaucoma are primary open-angle, angle-closure, secondary, congenital, juvenile and low-tension.) This pressure can cause damage to the cells that form the optic nerve, the structure responsible for transmitting visual information from the eye to the brain. The damage is progressive with loss of peripheral vision first, followed by reductions in central vision and, potentially, blindness.

How many people have glaucoma?

Between two million and three million Americans age 40 and over, or about one in every 30 people in that age group have glaucoma. This includes those who are unaware they have the eye disease.

How many people have glaucoma and don't know it?

At least one half of all those who have glaucoma are unaware of it. How many people are blind due to glaucoma? Between 89,000 and 120,000 people are blind from glaucoma. It is a leading cause of blindness, accounting for between nine and 12 percent of all cases of blindness. The rate of blindness from glaucoma is between 93 and 126 per 100,000 population over 40.

Who is at highest risk of developing glaucoma?

People who are more likely to develop glaucoma include those who are one or more of the following:

  • African-American (four to five times more likely than Caucasian Americans);
  • Related to someone with glaucoma;
  • Over 50 years of age if Caucasian, over 35 if African-American;
  • Very nearsighted
  • Diabetic.

How is glaucoma detected?

Unfortunately, there is no simple test for glaucoma that is 100% effective. Measurement of the pressure within the eye alone is not adequate to detect glaucoma. Only a complete eye examination through dilated pupils along with other specialized testing is adequate to diagnose the disease.

What are the signs and symptoms?

In the vast majority of cases, especially in early stages, there are few signs or symptoms. In the later stages of the disease, symptoms can occur that include:

  • Loss of side vision;
  • An inability to adjust the eye to darkened rooms;
  • Difficulty focusing on close work;
  • Rainbow colored rings or halos around lights;
  • Fequent need to change eyeglass prescriptions.

Can glaucoma be cured?

No. Any sight that has been destroyed cannot be restored, but medical and surgical treatment can help stop the disease from progressing.

Can glaucoma be prevented?

Not yet, but blindness from glaucoma can be prevented through early detection and appropriate treatment. What is the best defense against glaucoma? Comprehensive eye exams on a regular basis.