Rx Optical Blog Image What is Glaucoma 12.27.18

What is Glaucoma?

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, and while many people have heard of glaucoma, most don’t fully understand the seriousness of the condition, or realize that it is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in the United States for those over 60.

Glaucoma is quite common in the United States, so understanding how to detect the condition in its early stages is key for preventing vision loss.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a condition that causes damage to the eye’s optic nerve and that gets worse over time. The condition is often caused by a buildup of pressure in the eye, referred to as intraocular pressure. The optic nerve is vital for clear vision, as it is responsible for transmitting images to the brain, meaning if the damage continues, glaucoma can lead to permanent vision loss. If left totally untreated, permanent blindness is possible within a couple years.


Glaucoma does not present any symptoms in the early stages, and the first sign is often a loss of peripheral, or side, vision. This loss in vision, due to increasing damage to the optic nerve, can go unnoticed for some time, which is why glaucoma is often referred to as the “sneak thief of vision.”

While less common, rapid onset glaucoma, caused by a sudden increase in pressure, has more noticeable symptoms, like blurred vision, severe eye pain, headache, rainbow-colored halos around lights, nausea and vomiting. This is an emergency, and if not treated immediately, could result in permanent blindness. 

Who is at Risk?

Anyone can develop glaucoma; however, it is more common in those who:

  • Are over the age of 40
  • Are of African-American, Irish, Russian, Japanese, Hispanic, Inuit or Scandinavian decent
  • Have a family history of glaucoma (if you have an immediate family member who has glaucoma, your risk in developing the condition increases four to nine times)
  • Have diabetes
  • Take certain steroid medications
  • Had recent trauma to the eye or eyes

Glaucoma is detected through comprehensive eye exams, so the importance of regular eye exams cannot be overlooked when it comes to protecting vision.

Living with Glaucoma

While there is no cure for glaucoma, if you have been diagnosed with the condition, there are available treatments to control the disease and prevent further vision loss. Treatments include medicines, in the form of eye drops or pills, laser trabeculoplasty, or conventional surgery. Having ongoing conversations with your eye doctor about treatment, and keeping up with regular comprehensive eye exams, is the best course of action.

With the new year comes new resolutions. This year, be sure to set aside time for annual comprehensive eye exams for you and your family members. Eye exams can detect a variety of different diseases in their early stages, including glaucoma.

At Rx Optical, we are dedicated to helping you enjoy life and see clearly. Stop in, give us a call, or schedule your appointment online. We can’t wait to see you!

rx optical blog image glaucoma awareness month 010818


Have you heard of the “silent thief of sight”? And no, it’s not a new comic book or movie villain; it’s Glaucoma.

Glaucoma, the second leading cause of blindness in the world, has earned this infamous title as it can steal your vision without warning or symptoms. The best way to fight this tricky foe is with education, since it’s Glaucoma Awareness Month, we want to take the time to educate you on this disease and what you can do to fight off its effects.

Since as much as 40% of vision can be lost without a person noticing, glaucoma can go undetected and, experts estimate that of the 3 million people that have it, half them are not aware.

Glaucoma is actually a group of eye diseases, but the two main types are primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) and angle-closure glaucoma. These are marked by an increase in pressure inside the eye and can cause optic nerve damage. The optic nerve acts like a wire carrying images from the eye to the brain so if this wire is damaged, vision will be lost.

You are at a higher risk for glaucoma if:

  • You are African-American
  • You are Hispanic
  • You are over 60
  • You’ve had siblings diagnosed with glaucoma
  • You are diabetic
  • You are severely nearsighted

Everyone (but those in these groups especially) need to make sure they are seeing Rx Optical regularly. While there is no cure for glaucoma, various medications and surgery can slow or prevent vision loss if it’s caught in time. This is why early detection is key and a great relationship with your eye doctor is so important. Vision loss can begin with peripheral or side vision that may not be obvious at first. This vision loss can be detected by an eye exam.

A comprehensive exam will check your inner eye pressure, the shape and color of your optic nerve, and angles in the eye.

Don’t let this sneaky disease steal your sight. If you meet any of the above criteria or are just ready for your next eye exam, give Rx Optical a call at (800) RX CARES and let’s take on this villain together.


Glaucoma is a disease caused by elevated eye pressure which results in damage to the optic nerve inside the eye. The optic nerve is a bundle of nerve fibers which makes vision possible. If the optic nerve sustains damage from elevated eye pressure, permanent vision loss and blindness may occur. In the most common form of glaucoma, vision loss is gradual and it may take many years for damage to become evident.

According to the World Health Organization, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world. It is estimated that over 2.2 million Americans have glaucoma, but only half of those know they have it. 1 A comprehensive eye examination can detect whether an individual is at risk for developing glaucoma.

Most types of glaucoma do not cause any symptoms until after irreversible vision loss has occurred. As the optic nerve becomes more damaged in the early stages, blank spots begin to appear in your field of vision, but they typically go unnoticed until the optic nerve is significantly damaged and these spots become large areas of permanent vision loss. A less common type of glaucoma is a rapid onset attack where the drainage area of the eye closes and eye pressure builds rapidly. Symptoms may include sudden blurred vision, severe eye pain, headache, rainbow-colored halos around lights, and nausea and vomiting. This is a true eye emergency that could result in blindness if not treated quickly. 2 To proactively monitor for problems, routine eye examinations every 1 to 2 years are recommended — in addition to prescribing glasses or contacts to improve vision, your eye doctor will assess the health of the eye and look for risk factors for eye diseases such as glaucoma.

A risk factor is something that doesn’t always lead to a condition, but increases the risk of having that condition. Risk factors for developing glaucoma include age, race, family history, steroid use, and eye injury. Some health conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes may also be associated with an increased risk of glaucoma.3

Glaucoma is more prevalent in patients age 60 and older, but it may occur earlier in life and even in children. African American, Asian and Hispanic persons are more likely to develop glaucoma. If there is an immediate family member who has glaucoma, the risk of developing glaucoma increases 4 to 9 times.3 Steroid use may increase eye pressure and lead to glaucoma. Steroids may be prescribed in the form of tablets, creams, gels, eye drops, nasal sprays, or injections, and are commonly used to treat conditions in the body that cause pain and inflammation. During ocular trauma, the area of the eye that allows fluid to drain and maintains normal eye pressure may become damaged and cause eye pressure to become elevated, leading to glaucoma. The mechanisms by which eye pressure or optic nerve health are affected by high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes are not fully understood at this time.

Most often, glaucoma is detected during a routine eye examination. Additional testing for glaucoma may be ordered due to elevated eye pressure in one or both eyes, positive family history for glaucoma, and/or based on the appearance of the optic nerve inside the eye. Any of these clinical signs observed during a routine eye exam may result in another more detailed examination called a glaucoma evaluation.

Although eye pressure has already been checked during routine testing, it will be checked again, as eye pressure may fluctuate throughout the day. A procedure called gonioscopy will be performed with a special lens that allows your eye doctor to evaluate the drainage area of the eye. Corneal thickness will be measured, as thin corneas are associated with increased risk of glaucoma. Photographs of the inside of the eye may be taken to record the appearance of the optic nerve and to aid in monitoring for change over time. Visual Field testing will be performed. This maps the sensitivity of the peripheral vision, which is likely to be affected first in glaucoma. A scan of the optic nerve, called Optical Coherence Tomography, is quick and painless and results in an image that allows your eye doctor to determine if there are signs of damage on the optic nerve that could be caused by glaucoma. Your eye doctor will evaluate the results of theses tests and may request frequent retesting to determine the presence of glaucoma and whether treatment is necessary.

Treatment for glaucoma in the United States is most often the prescription of eye drops which are used 1 to 2 times daily to lower eye pressure, although a minimally invasive laser procedure is also becoming more common. Depending on the type of glaucoma and stage (mild, moderate, advanced), eye surgery may be the best treatment option to lower eye pressure. Your eye doctor will work with you to determine your next steps after glaucoma is diagnosed. Treatment for glaucoma is considered to be long-term. Once a patient begins treatment to lower eye pressure, this treatment must be maintained to control eye pressure, thereby slowing the progression of glaucoma and reducing the risk of vision loss.

At this time, there is no cure for glaucoma. The goal of treating glaucoma is to slow the progression of the disease that results in vision loss if left untreated and unmonitored. Therefore, early detection and treatment is the best defense against irreversible vision loss.

It is not completely understood why glaucoma develops, and there is no recommended vitamin or diet that will reduce the risk of glaucoma. However, not smoking and maintaining a healthy diet with antioxidants, fruits and vegetables, and 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week is associated with a reduced risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.4 These conditions may all contribute to an increased risk of developing glaucoma. The best defense against glaucoma is early detection, staying physically healthy, and annual eye examinations.


(1) The Eye Disease Prevalence Research Group, Arch Ophthalmology. 2004; Prevent Blindness America; (2) American Academy of Ophthalmology (2012). Glaucoma, A Closer Look. San Fransico, CA; (3) Are You at Risk For Glaucoma? Glaucoma Research Foundation. http://www.glaucoma.org. Accessed Jan. 14, 2015; (4) Strategies to Prevent Heart Disease. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org. Accessed Jan.14, 2015