What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is the name given to a group of conditions in which the optic nerve suffers a characteristic form of damage at the back of the eye which is often associated with a raised level of intraocular pressure. 

The optic nerve damage causes patchy loss of vision that varies in severity from patient to patient. Without treatment, the loss of vision usually gets worse over the course of many months or several years. The loss of vision in glaucoma is permanent, but with early treatment the damage to vision can be minimised. 

Most patients with glaucoma are not aware of problems with their vision. This is because the central vision (for reading and recognising people) is only affected when glaucoma has advanced to a late stage. 

Even when central vision is still good, glaucoma may affect the vision needed for driving and getting about (for instance, seeing steps). 

Can I become blind due to glaucoma?

Complete blindness from glaucoma is rare. However, if blindness does occur, this is usually because the glaucoma is only diagnosed in a late stage. Other reasons include the eye pressure not responding well to treatment or because patients have not taken their eye drops regularly. 

For most glaucoma patients, the main effect of the condition is the inconvenience of using eye drops. 

What are the different types of glaucoma?

Adult glaucoma falls into two categories – open angle glaucoma and closed angle glaucoma. These categories are subdivided, according to whether the cause is unknown (primary glaucoma) or known, i.e. the high eye pressure is caused by other conditions of the eye (secondary glaucoma).

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