What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the name for a group of eye conditions in which the
optic nerve is damaged at the
point where it leaves the eye. The
optic nerve carries information from the light sensitive layer in
your eye, the retina, to the brain where it is perceived as a picture.
Your eye needs a certain amount of pressure to keep the eyeball
in shape so that it can work
properly. In some people, the damage
is caused by raised pressure. Others may have an eye
within normal limits but damage occurs because there is a weakness in the optic nerve.
In most cases both factors are
involved but to a varying extent.
Are there different types of glaucoma?
Yes there are four main types:
Chronic Glaucoma: This is the most common type of glaucoma.
The eye pressure rises very slowly
and there is no pain to show
there is a problem, but the field of vision gradually become
Acute Glaucoma: This is less common in western countries. This
type of glaucoma occurs when
there is a sudden blockage to the
flow of aqueous fluid to the eye. This can be quite painful and will
cause permanent damage to your sight if not treated properly.
Secondary Glaucoma: This type of glaucoma occurs as a result of
a rise in eye pressure caused by
another eye condition.
Developmental Glaucoma: This is a rare but sometimes serious
condition which occurs in babies
and is caused by a malformation
in the eye.
How common is glaucoma?
Some form of glaucoma affects about 2 in 100 people over the age of 40.
Are some people particularly at risk of chronic glaucoma?
Yes. There are several factors which increase the risk:
Age: Chronic glaucoma becomes much more common with
increasing age. It is uncommon below
the age of 40 but affects
one percent of people over this age and five percent over 65.
Race: If you are of African origin you are more at risk of chronic glaucoma.
Family: If you have a close relative who has chronic glaucoma
then you should have regular eye
examinations. You should
advise other members of your family to do the same. This is
true if you are over 40.
Short sight: People with a high degree of short sight are more
prone to chronic glaucoma.
Diabetes: It is believed that diabetic have an increased risk of
developing chronic glaucoma.
Can glaucoma be treated?
If detected early enough, glaucoma can usually be treated. In
most cases, eye drops to reduce the
pressure will be prescribed,
although in some cases a minor operation is needed.
- Information provided by the American Optometric Association
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