Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that damage the nerve at the back of the eye (optic nerve), resulting in loss of eyesight, especially peripheral (side) vision. If glaucoma is not treated, loss of vision may continue, leading to total blindness over time.

The causes of glaucoma are not well understood, but in many cases it is related to a buildup of pressure inside the eye. Most types of glaucoma develop slowly over time without causing noticeable symptoms, but one type (narrow or closed-angle glaucoma) develops quickly and usually causes severe eye pain. Any type of glaucoma can lead to blindness if not treated.

Risk factors for glaucoma include:

  • Family history of glaucoma.
  • African ancestry.
  • Diabetes.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Nearsightedness.

Glaucoma can be easily detected during regular eye exams. It usually responds well to treatment with medication.

Last Updated: May 23, 2008

Author: Jeannette Curtis

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Carol L. Karp, MD - Ophthalmology

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