|Frequently Asked Questions About Glaucoma
What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma refers to a group of diseases that have certain common
features including intraocular pressure too high for the health
of the eye, damage to the optic nerve, and visual field loss.
In glaucoma, the increased fluid pressure builds up and pushes
the optic nerve back into a cupped or concave shape. If the
intraocular pressure remains too high for too long, the extra
pressure damages parts of the optic nerve. This damage appears
as gradual visual changes and then loss of vision. The early
visual changes are very slight and usually do not affect the
central vision, the center portion of what is seen when looking
straight ahead or reading. Parts of the peripheral vision,
the top, sides and bottom areas of vision are affected and
may not be noticed by the patient at first. Glaucoma usually
occurs in both eyes, but extra fluid pressure often begins
to build up first in only one eye.
Are There Symptoms?
In the most common form of glaucoma, this build-up of fluid
pressure happens very gradually, usually without any uncomfortable
or painful symptoms.
Glaucoma can occur in people of all ages from children to older
adults, but is more likely to develop in people who are over
60 years old, very nearsighted, or diabetic. Glaucoma also
occurs more frequently in African Americans age 40 and over.
The tendency to develop glaucoma may be inherited, since relatives
of people with glaucoma are more likely to develop glaucoma
How Often Should I Be Examined For Glaucoma?
Doctors recommend a glaucoma check as part of regular examinations
for children, teenagers and adults. Most people should have
an especially thorough glaucoma check around the age of 35.
Another check-up is recommended at age 40 and then every two
or three years after.
Is There A Cure?
Generally speaking, glaucoma cannot be cured, but it can be
controlled. Once diagnosed, it requires constant, lifelong
care. Continual observation and treatment can control the intraocular
pressure, which protects the optic nerve and prevents vision
loss. The importance of keeping eye pressure under control
cannot be emphasized too strongly. Eye drops, oral medications,
laser surgery, and microsurgery are quite successful in controlling
eye pressures over long periods of time.
Many people think that glaucoma has been cured when high pressures
have been brought down to safe levels with medication or surgery.
In fact, the glaucoma is only being controlled. Regular check-ups
are necessary even after medications or surgery have successfully
controlled the eye pressure.