Glaucoma is a chronic eye disease consisting of damage to the optic nerve, and loss of visual fields usually as a result of elevated intraocular pressure. The damage to the optic nerve, consisting of a million nerve fibers, is not reversible once it occurs. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness, especially in older individuals. Loss of sight from glaucoma is usually preventable if early detection and treatment are initiated. Glaucoma is more common in individuals with a close family member with the disease and over the age of 40.
In the initial stages of this disease there are often no symptoms such as headache, blurred vision or visual impairment. In other words, this is a silent disease. But, if present and untreated, glaucoma can lead to permanent loss of vision.
A complete ophthalmic eye exam includes evaluation for glaucoma, such as measurement of the intraocular pressure, assessment of the structural anatomy of the eye, and observation of the optic nerve appearance.
If glaucoma is suspected, further testing is often necessary and may include computerized testing of the peripheral vision (visual field test), photography of the optic nerve, and computer analysis of the optic nerve (optical coherence topography).
When testing indicates damage to the optic nerve, a diagnosis of glaucoma is made, and treatment often with drops and / or laser is started. When glaucoma is caught early in the disease, the risk for having significant visual loss is often prevented.