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What You Need to Know About Glaucoma

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Glaucoma is a disease where the pressure usually is too high in your eye and causes damage to the optic nerve.  Your optic nerve is responsible for transmitting the vision from your eye to your brain.  Your optic nerve acts like the computer cable that connects your computer hard drive to the monitor. We are born with over one million fibers in each optic nerve.  Five thousand optic nerve fibers are lost per year in the aging process alone.  Glaucoma accelerates the loss of optic nerve fibers.  Instead of losing 5,000 optic nerve fibers/year, someone with glaucoma may be losing 20,000 to 50,000 fibers/year.

There are many different types of glaucoma.  The two main forms of glaucoma are open angle and closed angle.  The great majority of people who have glaucoma have the open angle form.  Early in open angle glaucoma you will not have ANY symptoms.  Once glaucoma advances to cause vision loss, damage is irreversible.  That is why it is so important to diagnosis and treat glaucoma early, before vision is lost.

Closed angle glaucoma is a less common form of glaucoma that is associated with the following symptoms:  eye pain, red eye, blurry vision, nausea, vomiting and headache.  Closed angle glaucoma can cause acute permanent loss of vision and requires immediate treatment with a laser in most circumstances.

Glaucoma evaluation will include periodic documentation of the appearance of your optic nerves, automated visual fields and checking the intraocular pressure (IOP).  The intraocular pressure is the number one modifiable risk factor for the development and progression of glaucoma.  The pressure does not mean that you have or do not have glaucoma.  However, we do know that lowering your eye pressure will decrease your risk of future vision loss from glaucoma.  Your IOP can be lowered with eye drops, laser, surgery or any combination of the above.

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