Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases in which the optic nerve, which connects your eye to your brain, is damaged by the pressure of fluid inside your eye.
There are two main types of glaucoma. One is primary open-angle glaucoma and the other is angle-closure glaucoma. These types of glaucoma are marked by an increase of intraocular pressure, or pressure inside of the eye. Secondary glaucoma refers to any case in which another disease contributes to or causes increased eye pressure.
In a healthy eye, clear fluid is continuously being made behind the iris and leaving the eye through a microscopic drainage canal in front of the eye. If this drainage canal becomes blocked, the pressure inside the eye increases and often causes glaucoma damage to the optic nerve.
Since you cannot feel this pressure in your eye, and because the disease progresses so slowly, you may not even know that you have glaucoma. That’s why it is so important that you have your eyes examined on a regular basis so that your eye doctor can detect and assess any symptoms of glaucoma before they can cause irreversible damage to your vision. There is currently no cure for glaucoma, but with early detection, medication or surgery, it can be slowed down and further vision loss can be prevented. Over 2 million Americans, and over 60 million people worldwide, have glaucoma. Experts estimate that half of these individuals are not aware that they even have the disease.
Who is at risk?
While the causes of glaucoma are not completely known, risk factors for its development include family history of glaucoma, race, and being over 40 years old. Glaucoma may affect people of any age from newborns to the elderly, but it is more common in adults as they approach their senior years. African-Americans, Hispanics, and people with diabetes are also at a higher risk of developing the disease.