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 F.A.Q.s: More About Glaucoma

Q. What damage does Glaucoma cause?

A. Glaucoma is an eye disease in which the internal pressure of the eye rises to a point that the optic nerve becomes damaged. The pressure that builds up is from an excess production of fluid in the eye that for one reason or another does not drain properly. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S. and most prevelent in "people of color."

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Q. Who gets glaucoma?

A. Glaucoma most frequently occurs in individuals over the age of 40 and in some cases can run in families. It is estimated that over 2 million Americans have glaucoma. These numbers are expected to rise as our population grows older.

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Q. What causes glaucoma?

A. The exact cause of glaucoma is not known. For some reason, fluid in the eye is overproduced or the passages that allow the fluid to drain become clogged or blocked. This results in fluid building up within the eye causing increased pressure on the optic nerve. Pressure within the eye can also rise because of an injury, inflammation, certain medications or a tumor in or around the eye.

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Q. Why is glaucoma harmful to vision?

A. The optic nerve is the main nerve that carries vision information to the brain. As the fibers that make up the optic nerve become damaged, the amount and quality of the information sent to the brain decreases and a loss of vision occurs.

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Q. Will I go blind from glaucoma?

A. If diagnoses at an early stage, glaucoma can be contained and little or no further vision loss should occur. If left untreated, side awareness (peripheral vision) will gradually be destroyed and blindness may eventually occur. Get evaluated for glaucoma every year. Just because you see well at distance is not a guarantee that your eyes are healthy. Remember, glaucoma is a "sneeky disease" and it can steal your eye sight.

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Q. How can I tell if I have glaucoma?

A. Glaucoma often develops gradually and painlessly; there are no early warning signs. It can gradually destroy your vision without you knowing it. When glaucoma becomes more advanced, it may be accompanied by blurred vision, a loss in side vision, the appearance of colored rings around lights, and pain or redness in the eye(s).

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Q. How is glaucoma detected?

A. A thorough optometric examination by a qualified doctor of optometry will include tests for glaucoma. A simple and painless procedure, called tonometry, measures the intraocular pressure of the eye. The optometrist will also look into the eye (dilated pupil) to observe the health of the optic nerve. The thickness of the cornea is evaluated and may be the most important risk factor in glaucoma. If indicated, automated visual field testing is performed; a special test evaluating the optic nerve fiber layer (covering of the optic nerve) is performed and photographing the back of the eye to have a picture (record) of the optic nerve and any damage that has occured is conducted. The last three tests are then compared from year-to-year (like x-rays) to access any damage

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Q. How is glaucoma treated?

A. Glaucoma is usually effectively treated by using eye drops and in rare cases with oral medication or surgery (to relieve uncontrollable pressure).

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Q. Will my vision be restored after being treated?

A. Unfortunately any vision loss as a result of glaucoma is usually permanent and cannot be restored. That is why regular vision examinations are so important.

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Q. Can glaucoma be prevented?

A. No, but early detection and treatment can control glaucoma and reduce the chances of damage to the eye and a loss of sight. Be sure to visit your optometrist regularly.

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