Glaucoma is damage to the optic nerve, usually in the setting of high eye pressure. The optic nerve is connected to the retina — a layer of light-sensitive tissue lining the inside of the eye — and is made up of many nerve fibers, like an electric cable is made up of many wires. The optic nerve sends signals from your retina to your brain, where these signals are interpreted as the images you see. In the healthy eye, a clear fluid called aqueous humor circulates inside the front portion of your eye. To maintain a constant healthy eye pressure, your eye continually produces a small amount of aqueous humor while an equal amount of this fluid flows out of your eye. If you have glaucoma, the aqueous humor does not flow out of the eye properly. Fluid pressure in the eye builds up and, over time, causes damage to the optic nerve fibers.
Screening and examination for glaucoma is more important as we age because the risk of glaucoma increases throughout our lives. It is estimated that three million Americans have glaucoma, but only about half of them know that they have glaucoma. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness for people over 60 years old. But blindness from glaucoma can often be prevented with early treatment. When glaucoma develops, usually you don’t have any early symptoms and the disease progresses slowly. In this way, glaucoma can steal your sight very gradually. Fortunately, early detection and treatment (with glaucoma eye drops, glaucoma surgery or both) can help preserve your vision.
If you are already treated for glaucoma, your follow-up examinations are a vital part of your care. Because you cannot feel when your eye pressure increases, pressure check appointments can keep you on target and are opportunities to make changes. These appointments are scheduled two to three times per year, and sometimes more frequently. Visual field testing and optic nerve imaging are also required and important to find new vision loss in spite of treatment


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