Primary Open Angle Glaucoma

The easiest way to think about glaucoma is to picture the eye as a kitchen sink. There is a faucet, which lets water into the sink, and a drain, which lets water out. If there is too much water entering, the sink will overflow. If there is poor drainage, then too much water accumulates again; both of these result in high pressure inside the eye. Poor drainage is the most common type of problem in glaucoma.

There is a lot of debate regarding how high pressure inside the eye affects the eye itself. This pressure is usually independent of your blood pressure. Simply put, the traditional view held that increased pressure compressed the blood vessels and decreased the amount of blood flow to the back of the eye. This slowly kills the nerves, and then the parts of the eye that are associated with those nerves can no longer see and that can lead to loss of vision.

In glaucoma, usually the peripheral vision is lost first. There is often no pain or any other symptom in open angle glaucoma, so often a lot of damage occurs before people notice something is wrong. Complete blindness in one or both eyes can result if glaucoma is not treated. However, open angle glaucoma is usually a slow disease, so it may be many years before any significant loss of vision occurs.

Some risk factors that can increase the risk of damage from glaucoma are: a family history of glaucoma, high blood pressure, older age, African-American heritage, nearsightedness, diabetes, or use of certain medications.

Sophisticated testing is required to determine a person's risk of glaucoma, and also to follow the progress of glaucoma once it has been diagnosed. There are many eyedrops available to treat glaucoma, and often different people respond to different drops. Sometimes people can become resistant to the effects of eyedrops. The next step in treating glaucoma would then be either a laser procedure or an operation performed by an ophthalmologist.

With so many options available to treat glaucoma today, patients with glaucoma who are treated early can maintain good vision for the rest of their lives. The key is in early detection and treatment, and diligently following an appropriate treatment plan once glaucoma has been diagnosed.

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