Glaucoma is an eye condition characterized by the build up of pressure within the eye causing damage to the main nerve of the eye resulting in loss of vision and potentially blindness.
Most people who have glaucoma show no initial symptoms. A routine eye exam along with checking the eye pressure and examining the inside of the eye for changes in the optic nerve head can usually detect glaucoma. Additional testing may consist of examination of the drainage network of the eye, photographs of the optic nerve head and visual field testing. Once glaucoma or a pre-glaucoma state is diagnosed, treatment is initiated. The most common glaucoma treatment consists of eye drops that either decrease the production of fluid in the eye or help with the drainage of fluid out of the eye or a combination of the two. In some cases pills, laser treatment or surgery is recommended.
Chronic open angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma. Fluid is constantly flowing within the eye and with this type of glaucoma the fluid does not exit the eye normally and causes the pressure inside the eye to rise and damage sight. Untreated this can lead to blindness over time.
Closed angle glaucoma is a less common form of glaucoma where the eye pressure rises suddenly and must be treated immediately to prevent blindness. This form of glaucoma is frequently accompanied by severe pain and blurred vision. It is treated with eye drops followed by laser treatment, and on occasions, surgery, to lower the pressure and restore the normal flow of fluid in the eye.
Narrow angle glaucoma is similar to closed angle glaucoma but the pressure rise tends not to be sudden and can occur without symptoms. This condition is usually treated with a combination of laser and eye drops.
Glaucoma is a treatable cause of blindness. However, early detection is critical since treatment can only prevent and not restore vision loss.
For more information on eye conditions, visit http://www.kellogg.umich.edu/patientcare/conditions/index.html
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