Glaucoma is actually a class of disorders that develop in a similar way. The amount of aqueous (pronounced a-kwee-us) humor, a watery fluid that fills the inside of the eyeball, begins to build up. As more of this fluid collects, it places greater pressure on all parts of the eye, including the optic nerve. Eventually the excess pressure destroys the nerve. It is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the US.
More than two million people in this country have glaucoma and about 80,000 are legally blind because of it. The condition is about three times as common among African Americans as among Caucasians or Hispanics. The risk for glaucoma increases rapidly with age, but the condition can affect any age group, including newborn infants and fetuses.
There are four major types of glaucoma: open angle (chronic), angle closure (acute), congenital, and secondary. All four types are characterized by increased pressure within the eyeball causing progressive damage to the optic nerve.
Often, there are no symptoms. Vision stays normal, and there is no pain. However, as the disease progresses, a person with glaucoma may notice his or her side vision gradually failing. Objects in the front may still be seen clearly, but objects to the side may be missed. As glaucoma worsens, the field of vision narrows and blindness results. Optic nerve damage reduces side vision first, and then central vision is affected. The result without proper treatment could be blindness.
Risk factors for glaucoma include ethnicity, increasing age, diabetes, and the presence of glaucoma in another family member.
Your eye doctor will take a detailed medical history followed by a comprehensive eye examination. The pressure inside the eye is called intraocular pressure (IOP), and if it is high, that is often a sign of glaucoma. To measure IOP, the doctor uses a tonometer, which may blow a puff of air onto your eye or it may be illuminated blue and gently placed directly on the surface of your eye after you eye has been numbed with topical anesthetic drops.
At Mid Florida Eye Center, our glaucoma experts will work with you to provide the best care and treatment possible. Schedule an appointment at one of our Central Florida locations including Mount Dora, Leesburg, Wildwood, The Villages, and Summerfield.