Worried about glaucoma? Wondering what it is and how to watch for symptoms?

We asked the Food and Drug Administration for some answers to our glaucoma questions.

We know: All About Glaucoma

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an eye disease marked by an increase in pressure in the eyeball. People with glaucoma usually, but not always, experience an imbalance of eye fluid production and drainage. As a result, fluid builds up in the eyeball and pressure becomes abnormally high. This can damage the optic nerve, retina and other parts of the eye.

What is chronic glaucoma?

Chronic glaucoma is the most common form of the disease, affecting nearly 3 million Americans. Many people who have the disease donít know it because there are no symptoms in the early stages.

As chronic glaucoma progresses, a patient may begin to lose peripheral vision, which is irreversible. If untreated, the disease can lead to blindness.

What is the best way to detect glaucoma early?

There are usually NO symptoms in the early stages of glaucoma, so the only means of detecting whether you have the disease is a regular complete eye exam where the eyes are dilated for observation.

What are the risk factors for glaucoma?

Factors that place you at a particularly high risk include:

  • Age and family history: People over 60 with a history of the disease. should have a complete eye exam at least every 2 years.
  • Race: African Americans are 4 times more likely to have the disease and after age 40 should have a complete eye exam at least every 2 years.
  • Other contributing factors: high blood pressure, diabetes and certain diseases that affect blood vessels.

What are the treatments for glaucoma?

Glaucoma is not curable, but there are treatments that can lower pressure in the eyeball. Treatments include:

  1. Medications that lower the pressure in the eye
  2. If medications donít work well, laser surgery can help make draining eye fluid easier.
  3. Surgery called trabeculectomy is sometimes used to create a small opening in the eye to make an area where fluid can drain.
  4. Sometimes a drainage tube is implanted in the eye with surgery.

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