Seldom can loss of vision occur so surreptitiously. Glaucoma is an irreversible damage to fibers of the optic nerve that may be the result of transient or persistent increases in eye pressure. Other factors such as the regulation of the blood supply to the eye may be a major risk factor for glaucoma damage. Glaucoma is the third largest cause of blindness in the U.S. after macular degeneration and cataracts. There are different forms of glaucoma but the condition is usually first detected by careful examination in an ophthalmologist's office.

Components of the examination to establish a correct diagnosis of glaucoma consist of:

  1. A family history. There is a four-fold risk of having glaucoma if a blood relative has had this condition. Afro-Americans have a 4-5 times higher incidence of glaucoma than do whites.

  2. An examination of the angle between the iris and the cornea to check for adequate fluid drainage.

  3. An examination of the optic nerve by pupil dilation.

  4. A visual field test to determine functioning of the optic nerve.

Once damage to the optic nerve has occurred and visual deficits found, there is no treatment that can reverse this condition. However, there are several preventive therapies that can be administered once the diagnosis of glaucoma has been made to limit the progression of the disease and save the patient's sight. 

Treatments include:

  • Oral medications (pills)

  • Topical medications (drops)

  • Laser or conventional surgery to improve drainage from the eyes

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