A: Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States. It is an eye disease in which the optic nerve becomes damaged, due to increased internal fluid pressure of the eye. The optic nerve is an extremely important part of the eye. It is the cable that sends information from the eye to the brain. The pressure that builds up is usually due to inadequate drainage of fluid normally produced in your eyes. The most common form of glaucoma, primary open-angle glaucoma, develops slowly and usually without symptoms. Many people do not become aware they have the condition until significant vision loss has occurred. It initially affects the peripheral or side vision, but can advance to central vision loss. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to significant loss of vision in both eyes, and may even lead to blindness. Certain factors increase the risk for glaucoma:
• Age. People older than 60 are at increased risk for the disease For African-Americans the increase in risk begins at age 40.
• Race. African-Americans are the highest risk to develop glaucoma. Next are people of Hispanic backgrounds and then Caucasians.
• Family history. Having a family history of glaucoma increases the risk for developing glaucoma.
• Medical conditions. Some studies indicate that diabetics may increase the risk of developing glaucoma, as does high blood pressure and heart disease.
Answer provided by Dr. Michael O’Meara at Optometric Associates of Warren County, P.C., 1228 Sunset Drive, Suite A, Norwalk, 981-0224.