The “Sneak Thief of Sight”

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. Glaucoma causes a characteristic type of damage to the optic nerve, which is the nerve that sends vision signals from the eye to the brain. Glaucoma is often associated with an eye pressure that is too high, but some people can get optic nerve damage from glaucoma without having high eye pressures. Because the eye pressure by itself is often not enough evidence to diagnose glaucoma, we have been following many patients as “glaucoma suspects”. These are people who have some risk factors for glaucoma, but not enough to make the diagnosis. Glaucoma often runs in families, and there are many genes that are associated with glaucoma. There are several different types of glaucoma.

Open angle glaucoma. This is the most common type of glaucoma in adults. There is still a lot that is not known about the causes of this type of glaucoma. It often runs in families, and there are many genes that are associated with this type of glaucoma. Open angle glaucoma can be divided into high pressure and normal (or low) pressure glaucoma. The eye pressure alone is often not enough to determine if someone has glaucoma. Black people and Hispanics are at particularly high risk of losing vision from high pressure open angle glaucoma. Japanese are at risk for developing normal pressure glaucoma.

Narrow angle and closed angle glaucoma. This occurs when the iris, or colored part of the eye, is too close to the tissue inside of the eye where the aqueous fluid leaves. Asians are at a higher risk of developing this type of glaucoma.

Traumatic glaucoma.  Glaucoma can occur as a result of an injury to the eye.

Pseudoexfoliation glaucoma. This type of glaucoma occurs when white deposits, termed pseudoexfoliation, are formed inside the eye. These deposits clog up the tissue where the eye fluid drains, causing the eye pressure to go up.

Steroid-induced glaucoma. In some people, the use of oral steroids, or steroids in eye drop form, can cause the eye pressure to get too high.

Congenital and juvenile glaucoma. Glaucoma can occur in newborn children, often due to developmental abnormalities of the eye. Glaucoma can also occur in older children.

Most glaucoma is painless, so it is important that everyone have regular eye examinations so that glaucoma can be diagnosed and treated before optic nerve damage occurs.

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The Glaucoma Research Foundation is a valuable educational and research resource for both patients and physicians. To go to the Glaucoma Research Foundation website, click here: