Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve—the part of the eye that carries the images we see to the brain. The optic nerve is made up of many nerve fibers, like an electric cable containing numerous wires. When damage to the optic nerve fibers occurs, blind spots develop. These blind spots usually go undetected until the optic nerve is significantly damaged. If the entire nerve is destroyed, then blindness results. Early detection and treatment by your ophthalmologist are the keys to preventing optic nerve damage and blindness from glaucoma. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the United States, especially for older people. Loss of sight from glaucoma can often be prevented with early treatment. Your ophthalmologist considers many kinds of information to determine your risk for developing the disease.
The most important risk factors include:
- elevated eye pressure
- family history of glaucoma
- African ancestry
- farsightedness or nearsightedness
- past eye injuries
- thinner central corneal thickness
- systemic health problems, including – diabetes, migraine headaches, and poor circulation.
Regular eye examinations by your ophthalmologist are the best way to detect glaucoma. A glaucoma screening that checks only the pressure of the eye is not sufficient to determine if you have glaucoma. The only sure way to detect glaucoma is to have a complete eye examination.
Treatment for glaucoma requires teamwork between you and your doctor. Your ophthalmologist can prescribe treatment for glaucoma, but only you can make sure that you follow your doctor’s instructions.