Learning More About: Glaucoma

Knowing glaucoma symptoms and glaucoma treatment may help to prevent the disease.

Glaucoma Overview:

Diagram: Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a general name for a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve of the eye. Glaucoma prevents the eye from sending accurate visual information to the brain.

Usually associated with gradual (and sometimes sudden) increases in pressure within the eyeball itself, glaucoma can result in partial or total blindness over time. The damage caused by glaucoma is irreversible, and it is currently the second-leading cause of blindness in Americans over age 40 in the United States.

Glaucoma Symptoms:

Glaucoma is often called "the thief of sight" because glaucoma symptoms either go undetected or develop slowly over time. Glaucoma usually starts by attacking the outside of your vision. Left untreated, glaucoma can lead to complete blindness in one or both eyes.

The most common eye problem linked to glaucoma is an increase in internal eye pressure. An increase in internal eye pressure doesn't automatically mean you "have" glaucoma; only that you have a condition that could lead to it – that's why a regular exam is so important.

There are a variety of optical tests that help to measure internal eye pressure. Learn more about glaucoma testing.

Glaucoma Treatment:

Glaucoma cannot be cured, although through early detection and regular eye exams, glaucoma treatment can stop or slow the disease. Glaucoma treatment can include regular daily eye drops or pills, conventional or laser surgery, or a combination of treatments as recommended by an eyecare professional.

Glaucoma Statistics:

Currently, glaucoma affects nearly 2.5 million Americans. And while anyone can develop glaucoma, the disease is most common in people over age 40, particularly African Americans. Glaucoma is five times more likely to affect African Americans than Caucasians, and roughly four times more likely to cause blindness.

In addition, people with a family history of glaucoma stand at a higher risk to develop the disease, and anyone over age 60, particularly Mexican Americans, faces an increased risk of glaucoma.

The information seen here is for reference purposes only and is not intended as medical advice or to diagnose or prescribe any specific treatment(s). For all questions and concerns about your vision, eye health and potential eye problems, please consult an eyecare professional.

Special thanks to the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, for source material that aided in the creation of this website. Visit the NEI/NIH website.

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