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What is glaucoma?

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Updated: 4/11/2007 5:48 pm
As you age, you can become susceptible to a number of vision-related problems associated with the aging process. One of them is glaucoma (glah-CO-muh), a condition that results from increased pressure caused by fluid within the eye. Glaucoma is sometimes called the silent thief of sight because it may be present and you don't realize it. Those who have it may feel no pain and often incorrectly attribute their dwindling vision simply to growing older. Glaucoma occurs mainly in people over age 50, and those of African descent are three times more likely to have it than people of other races. If left untreated, the disease can damage the optic nerve and lead to blindness. In fact, glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S. However, if it's diagnosed early, blindness from glaucoma is almost always preventable. Glaucoma can be compared to a slow drain that allows fluid to accumulate. Rising pressure from the fluid accumulation eventually damages the optic nerve, the nerve that sends visual images to the brain. This creates blind spots and tunnel vision. Although there's no cure, a lot can be done to slow the progression of the disease and save your vision if it's discovered in time, which can only be done by a thorough eye exam. That's why an annual exam is very important, particularly for those at highest risk. Eye drops, pills, and various surgical procedures are the most common treatments for the disease. Especially if you're over 40, you should have your eyes checked for glaucoma every year.
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