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Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases in which the normal fluid pressure inside the eye slowly rises. Clear fluid flows in and out of the anterior chamber— the small space at the front of the eye. If this fluid drains too slowly, the optic nerve can be damaged. The building of pressure from fluids can lead to vision loss and, sometimes, blindness. While it can occur at any age, glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness for people over the age of 60.

Symptoms

Many forms of glaucoma have no warning signs. The effect is so gradual that you may not notice a change in vision until the condition is at an advanced stage.

Types of Glaucoma

There are two types of glaucoma:

Open-angle glaucoma: This is the most common type of glaucoma. The structures of the eye appear normal, but fluid in the eye does not flow properly through the drain of the eye, called the trabecular meshwork.

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Angle-closure glaucoma: This type of glaucoma is less common, but can cause a sudden buildup of pressure in the eye. Drainage may be poor because the angle between the iris and the cornea (where a drainage channel for the eye is located) is too narrow. Or, the pupil opens too wide, narrowing the angle and blocking the flow of the fluid through that channel. The fluid accumulates and forces the iris to obstruct the trabecular meshwork. When this happens, the function of meshwork fails to respond to the aqueous fluid and this leads to an increase of pressure. Scars can form causing an irreversible block in the aqueous outflow. Vision can be lost.

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Treatment

There are now a number of excellent therapies to treat glaucoma and slow down the loss of vision. Treatments may include medication, eye drops, laser surgery and surgical treatment. Although there is no cure for this disease, early detection, treatment and close monitoring can prevent vision loss. Since patients often do not have any symptoms of Glaucoma, it is important to have regular eye exams that include measurements of your eye pressure so a diagnosis can be made in its early stages and treatment can begin immediately. Generally, if you have glaucoma you will need treatment for the rest of your life.