All types of glaucoma are related to an increased amount of pressure within the eyes that can damage the cells comprising the optic nerve, which transmits visual data to the brain from the eye. At first, peripheral vision is lost, and then the central vision is diminished, and blindness is a possibility. In the United State, approximately one out of every 30 people over the age of 30 develop this condition, and some are unaware of it.
Individuals who are at the greatest risk for developing glaucoma include the following:
- African Americans
- those who have a family history of glaucoma
- those who are diabetic
- those who are very nearsighted
Note also that a thorough visual examination and additional specialized testing is sufficient to determine if a patient has glaucoma. In most cases, particularly in the early stages, few symptoms or signs are evident. As the disease progresses, patients may experience:
● loss of peripheral vision
● loss of the eye’s ability to adjust to a darkened room
● difficulty in completing close work
● visualizing rainbow-colored halos or rings around lights
● the need to change prescriptions for eyeglasses often
Although eyesight that has been lost can never be restored, once the condition is diagnosed, modern medical treatment and surgical procedures can help to prevent the condition from worsening. Also, blindness can be averted through periodic, comprehensive eye examinations, early detection, and appropriate follow-up care.
Applanation is the preferred test for evaluating eye pressure. After drops are used to anesthetize the eye, the patient looks at a blue light, and the specialist measures the eye pressure and examines the optic nerve. Depending on the results, additional testing may be needed.
In the United States, a great deal of glaucoma research is now being conducted to determine its causes and advance its testing and treatment. With this in mind, the National Eye Institute (NEI) funds several studies to determine the causes of increased pressure in the eye. In addition, the NEI sponsors clinical trials of new medications and surgical techniques that may be used to combat glaucoma in the future.