Glaucoma is the name for a group of diseases that can damage the optic nerve of the eye. Good vision depends on a healthy optic nerve, Dr.Nussenblatt explained. The eye has a mechanism much like a drain system:
A clear fluid regularly flows in and out of the anterior chamber of the eye, nourishing nearby tissues, and keeping the pressure in the
eye at whatever is normal for each person. However, in an eye affected with the most common form of glaucoma — called open angle glaucoma — the drain is clogged for some unknown reason and the fluid cannot flow out. This build-up of fluid in the anterior chamber causes the pressure to rise and can damage the optic nerve. The pressure must be lowered and controlled — either with eye drops, , or surgery — to prevent damage to the optic nerve and preserve vision.
Glaucoma affects at least 2 million adults in the United States and is the leading cause of blindness here. As many as 1 million people
here may have glaucoma and do not know they have it. Initially, people with glaucoma may begin to lose their peripheral, or side vision.
“That’s good in a way because the peripheral vision is what we use least and in the end it’s something that potentially could be expendable,” said Dr. Nussenblatt. However, that is also bad because the vision loss can progress very rapidly or very slowly without the person realizing it,until central vision has been markedly altered as well, he said. Because of its often “silent” progression, glaucoma is commonly called the “thief in the night.”
Your eye care provider can detect the first signs of glaucoma during a comprehensive eye examination, he said. Your pupils must be dilated (usually with a drop or two of medication) so the doctor can look into the back of your eyes. (See box for details about a comprehensive eye exam.) NEI is supporting many research studies to find better ways to detect, treat and prevent vision loss in people with glaucoma. Studies are also aimed at finding out more about who is likely to get glaucoma, when to treat people with increased pressure in their eyes, and which treatment to use first.
Article: Courtesy of: nih.gov
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