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Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States and throughout the world. Currently, there are 70 million people worldwide with glaucoma and that number continues to grow as the population ages.
In the United States, there are 4-5 million Americans with glaucoma but only half of them are aware of their condition and seek treatment. As untreated glaucoma leads to permanent damage of the optic nerve with resultant vision loss, it is imperative to be screened for glaucoma as part of the annual eye exam.
Glaucoma refers to a group of eye diseases with the common feature of optic nerve damage. Though it is often associated with increased eye pressure, it is not always the case, leading some patients with normal eye pressures to have glaucoma while others with increased eye pressures never develop glaucoma. As such, glaucoma can be elusive in nature and therefore requires specialty training to diagnose and manage properly.
While there is no established cause of glaucoma, certain individuals are at a higher risk for developing the condition -- including those with a family history of the disease; those with diabetes or a past eye injury; people within certain ethnic groups, including African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Scandinavians; those taking corticosteroids; and anyone over the age of 40.
- Advanced age
- A past eye injury
- A family history of cataracts
- A history of smoking
- A history of taking certain prescription medications (e.g., corticosteroids)
- A history of certain medical conditions (e.g., diabetes)
- Long term exposure to ultraviolet light or exposure to radiation.
- Blurry vision
- Double vision
- A feeling of "film" over the eyes
- Temporary improvement in near vision ("second sight")
- Sensitivity to bright lights and glare which may make driving difficult
- Less vivid perception of color
- Frequent changes in eyeglass prescriptions
- Loss of color vision
- Difficulty seeing objects clearly
- Distorted, blurry vision
- Darkened, or empty spots near the center of the visual field