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
Glaucoma is one of the most
common causes of legal blindness in the world. At first, people with glaucoma lose side (peripheral)
vision. But if the disease isn't treated, vision loss may get worse. This can
lead to total blindness over time.
There are three types of
- Open-angle glaucoma (OAG) is the most common
form in the United States and Canada. (In other parts of the world, it's less common.) It usually affects both eyes at the same time. Your vision gradually gets worse. But it gets worse so slowly that you may not notice it.
- Closed-angle glaucoma (CAG) isn't very common in the U.S. and Canada. It usually affects one eye at time. CAG can happen suddenly and be a medical emergency.
- Congenital glaucoma is a rare form of
glaucoma that some infants have at birth. Some children and young adults can
also get a type of the disease.
What causes glaucoma?
The exact cause isn't known. Experts think that increased pressure in the eye (intraocular pressure) may cause the nerve damage in many cases. But some people who have glaucoma have normal eye pressure.
Some people get glaucoma after an eye injury or after eye surgery. Some medicines (corticosteroids) that are used to treat other diseases
may also cause glaucoma.
What are the symptoms?
If you have OAG, the only symptom you are likely to notice
is loss of vision. You may not notice this until it is serious. That's because
the eye that is less affected makes up for the loss at first. Side vision is
often lost before central vision.
Symptoms of CAG can be mild, with symptoms like blurred
vision that last only for a short time. Severe signs of CAG
include longer-lasting episodes of blurred vision or pain in or around the eye.
You may also see colored halos around lights, have red eyes, or feel sick to
your stomach and vomit.
In congenital glaucoma, signs
can include watery eyes and sensitivity to light. Your baby may rub his or her
eyes, squint, or keep the eyes closed much of the time.
How is glaucoma diagnosed?
Glaucoma can be diagnosed:
- During routine exams with your eye doctor.
- When you go to your family doctor because of an eye problem. Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms and do a physical exam. If your doctor thinks you
have glaucoma, you will then need to see an eye doctor for eye exams and tests.
How is it 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 to use 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 do you cope with glaucoma?
If you have vision loss, you can keep your quality of life. You can use vision aids, such as large-print items and special
video systems, to help you cope with reduced eyesight. Support groups and counseling can also help you deal with vision loss.
Frequently Asked Questions