Glaucoma is a series of diseases that result in damage to the optic nerves and eventual loss of vision. Glaucoma can affect anyone from newborn infants to the elderly. It is estimated that 3 million Americans have glaucoma. During this time, most people will NOT experience any symptoms. If left untreated, it can affect the vision and ultimately lead to permanent blindness. Glaucoma usually develops slowly over a period of years, but some rare forms can develop over hours. Inside the eye, a clear fluid called the acqeous humor, is produced to nourish the structures within the eye. Normally, this fluid leaves the eye through a drainage system called the trabecular meshwork located in the angle of the eye. In glaucoma, this fluid fails to drain at a normal rate and the intraocular pressure (IOP) rises. When the pressure in the eye is too high (this varies from person to person) this damages the optic nerve, which is responsible for sending visual images from the eye to the brain. When the nerve cells die, permanent damage occurs.
Glaucoma is detected through a complete eye examination. Early on, there are no symptoms. Vision stays normal and there is no pain. Over time and without treatment, people with glaucoma will experience a loss of peripheral vision, followed by a loss of central vision. Eventually without treatment, blindness can result.