What is glaucoma?



Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve at the back of your eye. This can cause vision loss. Although the cause of glaucoma isn't clear, experts think it's often related to a buildup of pressure in the eye.

Glaucoma can be easily detected during regular eye exams. It usually responds well to treatment with medicine.

What happens when you have glaucoma?

Glaucoma usually affects side vision first. With no treatment, vision loss will continue. This will cause total blindness over time. Treatment can't reverse vision loss. But if glaucoma is found and treated early, good eyesight can usually be maintained.

With open-angle glaucoma, vision changes so slowly that your eyesight may be affected before you notice it. Blind spots from each side of the field of vision meet little by little, increasing the area of blindness. Central vision is affected last.

Closed-angle glaucoma can happen in short episodes over the long term. Or it can happen suddenly (acute). If it's acute, it's an emergency because severe and lasting vision loss can develop soon after symptoms start.

Childhood glaucoma may be present at birth or may develop within the first few years of life.

What are the symptoms of glaucoma?

In open-angle glaucoma, the only symptom you may notice is loss of side (peripheral) vision. You may not notice this until it is serious. Symptoms of closed-angle glaucoma usually happen suddenly and can include severe pain and redness in the eye. In childhood glaucoma, symptoms can include watery eyes and sensitivity to light.

How is glaucoma treated?

Glaucoma can't be cured. But there are things you can do to help stop more damage to the optic nerve. To help keep your vision from getting worse, you'll probably need medicine (most likely eyedrops) every day. You may also need laser treatment or surgery. You'll also need regular checkups with your eye doctor.

How is glaucoma diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms and do a physical exam. If your doctor thinks you have glaucoma, you will need to see an eye specialist. The specialist will do an eye exam and measure the pressure in your eyes to check for signs of glaucoma.

How are medicines used to treat glaucoma?

Medicines that lower the pressure inside the eye are prescribed to treat glaucoma. One type reduces the amount of fluid that the eye produces. The other increases the amount of fluid that drains out of the eye. Eyedrops are usually used first.

What increases your risk for glaucoma?

There are some things that can put you at risk for the different types of glaucoma.

You have a higher risk for open-angle glaucoma (OAG) if you:

  • Have high pressure in the eyes.
  • Are an older adult.
  • Are Black.
  • Have a family history of OAG.
  • Are Hispanic.
  • Have type 2 diabetes.

You have a higher risk for closed-angle glaucoma (CAG) if you:

  • Are from East Asia or have East Asian or Inuit ancestry.
  • Are an older adult.
  • Are female.
  • Are farsighted. The eyes of people with this condition have narrower drainage angles. This allows the angles to become blocked more easily.
  • Have a family history of CAG.
  • Already have CAG in one eye.

Your baby has a higher risk for childhood glaucoma if:

  • The mother has certain viral infections like rubella during pregnancy.
  • The baby has a family history of childhood glaucoma.

What causes glaucoma?

In open-angle glaucoma, fluid in the eye doesn't drain well. When this happens, the fluid builds up, increases the pressure, and damages the optic nerve. This causes vision loss. But some people who have this type have normal eye pressure. The reason for this is not known.

In closed-angle glaucoma, fluid can't drain because the drainage angle is blocked. This can happen when the colored part of the eye and the lens block the movement of fluid. A defect or scar in the eye can also block fluid.

In congenital glaucoma, babies are born with it. In infantile glaucoma, it develops in the first years. It can happen because the mother had an infection during pregnancy. Some babies have a family history of the condition.

Some people get glaucoma after an eye injury or eye surgery. Some medicines (corticosteroids) may also cause glaucoma.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is the name for a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve. This nerve carries information from the eye to the brain. When the nerve is damaged, you can lose your vision. There are different types of glaucoma. It can affect both eyes or just one eye at a time.

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