Glaucoma is the collection of conditions which cause progressive damage to the optic nerve, the structure that sends signals from the eye to the brain. Most commonly, an increase in intraocular pressure (IOP, pressure inside the eye) causes glaucoma to develop. Also in most cases, glaucoma is hereditary, meaning a person that develops glaucoma most likely has a blood relative that also has glaucoma. Other causes of glaucoma include trauma, inflammatory disease, and diabetes.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness, with cataracts a close second. But, unlike cataracts, once damage is done by glaucoma, it cannot be corrected. The optic nerve is a part of the central nervous system, which includes the brain, spinal cord, and cranial nerves. Central nervous system nerves do not regenerate (ex. most paralysis patients do not regain function of affected limbs due to damage to the spinal cord). Glaucoma is nicknamed by some as, "a silent blindness," because most patients will not see the actual signs of the condition until 50% of the damage caused by glaucoma occurs. Glaucoma affects vision by damaging and blinding one's peripheral (side) vision first, then progressively works toward central vision. Uncontrolled, glaucoma can eliminate the peripheral vison, leaving sight through the eye similar to looking through a tunnel or towel roll.
Reducing IOP is the main way of preventing further damage by glaucoma. The first treatment usually involves topical drops applied to the eye, which helps reduce the IOP. Other surgical options are available if topical drops do not reduce the IOP enough to prevent further damage.
Persons with glaucoma require close, periodic exams to monitor their IOP in each eye, making sure that their ocular health and vision is stable. If you or a loved one has glaucoma, it is important to know if his/her glaucoma is being controlled. For further information concerning glaucoma, please click on "Glaucoma Research Foundation" below OR contact our office.
Dr. David Cole