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Glaucoma

 

Definition

Glaucoma is a disease in which increased pressure in the eyeball damages the optic nerve, leading to vision loss. The cause is not known but glaucoma does run in families, and is more common in African-Americans than whites.  

Symptoms of glaucoma can include loss of peripheral vision or blind spots in the visual field. Often, these changes can only be detected by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. 

At least 2% of the population over the age of 40 has chronic simple glaucoma, which causes no pain but can eventually lead to a significant loss of vision.  

In angle closure glaucoma, there are sudden attacks of increased eye pressure that may be painful, cause nausea and vomiting, or cause visual symptoms such as colored halos around lights. Each attack reduces the personís vision. 

Having diabetes or cardiovascular disease can increase a personís risk for glaucoma. Certain eye diseases or injuries, or taking certain medications that increase eye pressure, can also make the disease more likely. Even myopia (being nearsighted) increases the risk, so itís important to have your eyes examined every year or so.

Treatment

Many cases of chronic glaucoma are treated with regular use of special eye drops that decrease fluid production and pressure in the eye. Some of the drops used are

  • beta blockers

  • pilocarpine

  • epinephrine

  • dorzolamide

In angle closure glaucoma, more rapid action is needed. The patient may use eyedrops or take a prescription medication such as acetazolamide when an attack occurs. 

Surgery is an option for some people with glaucoma. In a procedure known as an iridotomy, a surgeon creates a tiny hole in the iris to prevent the buildup of pressure in the eyeball. Sometimes, part of the iris must be removed. Lasers are being used more and more often in this type of surgery. 

 

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