What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the optic nerve in the
eye. The optic nerve is the part of the eye that sends electrical impulses
for sight to the brain. If left untreated, glaucoma can cause permanent
loss of vision or blindness.
What causes glaucoma?
Clear fluid flows in and out of a small space at the front of the eye and
keeps the tissues in the eye healthy. If this fluid drains too slowly,
it puts pressure on the optic nerve and can cause glaucoma.
What are the symptoms of glaucoma?
Often, there are no symptoms at first. Vision stays normal and there is
no pain. But as the disease gets worse, side vision may begin to fail.
Objects straight ahead may be clear, but objects to the side may not be
seen. Over time, with no treatment, people with glaucoma may not be able
to see objects straight ahead.
Who is at higher risk for glaucoma?
Anyone can get glaucoma, but people at higher risk for glaucoma are:
- African Americans age 40 and older
- All adults age 60 and older, especially Hispanics/Latinos
- Those who have family members with glaucoma
Other factors that can increase the risk of glaucoma include:
- Previous eye injury
How is glaucoma detected?
An eye care professional can determine whether a person has glaucoma through
a comprehensive dilated eye exam. During this exam, drops are put into
the eyes to enlarge the pupils. The eye care professional is then able
to see more of the inside of the eye to check for signs of damage to the
optic nerve. A dilated eye exam is important because screening for eye
pressure alone is not enough to detect glaucoma.
How is glaucoma treated?
Glaucoma cannot be cured, but treatment can help control the pressure in
your eye and delay further damage to the optic nerve. The most common
- Medications, such as eye drops or pills
- Laser surgery
- Traditional surgery
Treatment usually begins with medication and, if needed, laser surgery.
Traditional surgery is usually for patients whose eye pressure cannot
be controlled with medication or laser surgery.
Early detection and treatment are the best ways to control glaucoma before
it causes permanent loss of vision. If you are at higher risk for glaucoma,
be sure to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam every one to two years.
For more information, please visit the National Eye Institute (NEI) at