10 Things You Should Know About Glaucoma

Date Posted: 01/24/2017

Tips and Facts About the Second Leading Cause of Blindness

Glaucoma is an eye disease that often has no early warning signs, and if left untreated, can lead to vision loss and blindness. Check out these ten things you should know about glaucoma, the sight-stealing disease, from the National Eye Institute (NEI).

1. More than 2.1 million Americans over age 40 have glaucoma

That number is estimated to more than double by 2050. Though glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in developed countries, increased awareness and ongoing research may reduce the health burden of glaucoma.

Learn more Facts About Glaucoma on VisionAware.

2. Anyone can develop glaucoma

Though it’s more common in people over the age of 45, babies and children can get a rare form of early onset glaucoma. The following groups are at higher risk of glaucoma:

  • African Americans over age 40
  • People over age 60, especially Mexican Americans
  • People with a family history of glaucoma

If you have glaucoma or are at risk of developing the eye disease, check out the Patient's Guide to Living with Glaucoma or Guía del Paciente: Vivir con Glaucoma on VisionAware.

3. Getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam is the only way to catch glaucoma early

During a comprehensive dilated eye exam, drops are placed in your eyes to dilate, or widen, the pupil. Your eye care professional uses a special magnifying lens to examine the back of your eye and look for signs of damage or problems. People at higher risk of glaucoma should usually be examined every one to two years.

4. Don't wait for symptoms

Lack of awareness and lack of symptoms prevent people from getting glaucoma diagnosed early, notes Jullia Rosdahl, M.D., Ph.D., of the National Eye Health Education Program and Duke Eye Center. Without treatment, people with glaucoma will slowly lose their peripheral (side) vision. Over time, central (straight-ahead) vision is also affected.

Learn the Signs and Symptoms of Vision Problems on VisionAware.

5. Glaucoma damages the eye's optic nerve

The optic nerve is like a data cable coming out of the back of your eye. It carries visual information to your brain. Glaucoma damages the nerve cells or “wires” in the cable, disrupting the flow of visual information.

Learn the different types of glaucoma and how you can deal with severe vision loss because of this eye disease.

6. Once glaucoma damages your optic nerve, lost vision cannot be restored

Early detection combined with treatment can slow or stop glaucoma progression.

7. Eye pressure is a major risk factor for glaucoma

However, not every person with increased eye pressure will develop glaucoma, and glaucoma can develop without increased eye pressure. Keep in mind, this is only one risk factor.

8. The only clinically proven treatment for glaucoma is to lower eye pressure

Some medicines cause the eye to make less fluid. Others lower pressure by helping fluid drain from the eye. Learn more about the treatment for glaucoma.

9. A new drug-delivery system is currently being tested

NEI-funded researchers are testing a drug-dispensing contact lens that may be easier to use than drops or pills.

10. Studies in the laboratory and with patients are making key discoveries and giving new hope

  • Researchers at NEI are studying how to protect retinal ganglion cells, the cells that make up the optic nerve.
  • NEI-funded researchers at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis turned patient-derived stem cells into retinal ganglion cells.
  • Recent NEI-funded analysis identified three additional genes that contribute to the most common type of glaucoma.
  • Scientists at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University found that high expression of a short gene may contribute to destructive eye pressures in glaucoma.
  • NEI-funded researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai developed a method to test potential glaucoma treatments and study disease progression.

Get all the facts about glaucoma from VisionAware and the National Eye Institute.

URL: https://nei.nih.gov/content/10-things-you-should-know-about-glaucoma

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