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What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a disease usually characterized by an increase in pressure within the eye. This may in time result in damage to the optic nerve, loss of peripheral or side vision and ultimately blindness. The higher the pressure within the eye, the greater the chance of damage to the optic nerve. Unfortunately, these symptoms are not always detectable in a patient, and glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the U.S., especially for older people. It is therefore important to have regular eye examinations.

What causes glaucoma?

There are likely many factors working together which result in the disease called glaucoma. Increased pressure within the eye results from abnormal circulation of the clear fluid called aqueous humor. Aqueous humor is continually produced within the eye and constantly drains from the eye. If there is either an overproduction of aqueous humor or insufficient drainage of the fluid, pressure builds up within the eye and the optic nerve may be damaged. Recently, the circulation of blood to the optic nerve has been implicated as a possible important factor in the causality of glaucoma.

Is glaucoma preventable?

Glaucoma cannot be prevented. Although early detection and treatment by your eye care specialist are the keys to minimizing optic nerve damage and preventing blindness from glaucoma, the disease itself is not preventable.

Dr. Shultz and Dr. Chang can detect it by examination:

  • Measure intraocular pressure (tonometry)
  • Inspect the drainage angle of your eye (gonioscopy)
  • Evaluate any optic nerve damage (ophthalmoscopy) and optical coherent tomography (OCT Scanning)
  • Test the peripheral or side vision of each eye (perimetry or visual field testing)
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How is it treated?

The increased pressure can usually be controlled with eye drops, sometimes in combination with pills. These medications decrease eye pressure, either by slowing the production of aqueous humor within the eye or by increasing the drainage of it from the eye. Laser treatment or even surgery may be needed when medical treatment alone is unable to prevent progression of optic nerve damage.

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