Glaucoma is among the leading causes of blindness in the United States. Sometimes called the silent thief of sight, glaucoma can damage vision so gradually you may not notice any loss of vision until the disease has reached an advanced stage. Glaucoma can go unnoticed because there is usually no pain until the disease has reached it’s full potential and has completely damaged the optic nerve and a irreversible loss of vision has occurred.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that develops when too much fluid pressure builds up inside the eye. When the aqueous fluid builds up. there is an increase in intraocular pressure that can damage the optic nerve. If damage to the optic nerve from high eye pressure continues, glaucoma will cause loss of vision. Without treatment, glaucoma can cause total permanent damage and blindness within a few years.
There are two main categories of glaucoma, open angle glaucoma and closed angle glaucoma. The most common form is the open angle glaucoma. There is no cure for glaucoma but effective glaucoma treatments are available to keep the fluid in the eye from building pressure. This can protect the optic nerve from any further damage. Closed angle glaucoma is far less common but this form of glaucoma can progress much more rapidly and can be painful.
In both forms of glaucoma, when the optic nerve fibers are damaged and tissue loss becomes significant, the peripheral vision is affected first. If not treated, blindness can occur. Other types of glaucoma include, primary open angle glaucoma, pseudoexfoliation glaucoma, pigmentary glaucoma, angle closure glaucoma, neovascular glaucoma, and angle recession glaucoma.
Why glaucoma forms in some eyes rather than other eyes remains a mystery. Ophthalmologists believe that the disease is caused by an abnormality of the drainage system of the eye. The drainage system is referred to as the trabecular meshwork. It is located in the front of the eye where the cornea and the iris meet. The trabecular meshwork acts like a cleansing system for the eye, and is constantly draining eye fluid. Without this working properly, the pressure can build up causing permanent optic nerve damage.