What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the United States, especially for older adults. But loss of sight from glaucoma is preventable if you receive treatment early enough.
Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve, which carries the images we see to the brain. Many people know that glaucoma has something to do with pressure inside the eye. The higher the pressure inside the eye, the greater the chance of damage to the optic nerve.
Glaucoma can damage nerve fibers, causing blind spots to develop. Often people don't notice these blind areas until much optic nerve damage has already occurred. Blindness reults if the entire nerve is destroyed. Early detection and treatment by your ophthalmologist are the keys to preventing optic nerve damage and blindness from glaucoma.
High pressure alone does not mean that you have glaucoma. Your ophthalmologist puts together many factors to determine your risk for developing the disease.
The most important risk factors include:
- African ancestry
- A family history of glaucoma
- Past injuries to the eyes
- A history of severe anemia or shock
Your ophthalmologist will weigh all of these factors before deciding whether you need treatment for glaucoma, or whether you should be monitored closely as a glaucoma suspect. This means your risk of developing glaucoma is higher than normal, and you need to have regular examinations to detect the early signs of damage to the optic nerve.