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Diagnosing Glaucoma

Glaucoma is truly present only if there is damage noted in the optic nerve or visual field. The actual level of pressure usually does not make as much difference as does the appearance and function of the optic nerve. However, the risk of glaucoma can greatly increase if your pressure gets extremely high. In these situations, our doctors might treat your eye to lower the pressure, despite the fact that there might still not be any damage present. They may feel that your risk of developing glaucoma and losing vision is worse than the risk of taking medications.

Are There Any Risk Factors That Help Predict Who Gets Glaucoma?

We do not know why specific individuals get glaucoma. We do know the following:

  • Nearly 2 million Americans have glaucoma.
  • 5% of people over 65 years may have glaucoma.
  • It is unusual for patients with glaucoma who are diagnosed early, who regularly take their medications, and who are followed regularly, to go blind.
  • Glaucoma can happen at any age, but is more common in elderly individuals.
  • Glaucoma happens with equal frequency in both men and women.
  • A patient with glaucoma has done nothing to cause the glaucoma.
  • Glaucoma can run in families. If your parents or other family members have glaucoma, you should tell this to your eye doctor and you possibly should be examined more frequently, depending upon your age.
  • Glaucoma is not a contagious disease.
  • Glaucoma is not related to diet, caffeine, or eating habits.
  • Glaucoma can occur in an eye which has had a severe injury.
  • Glaucoma is more frequent if there is severe inflammation within the eye.
  • Glaucoma is over four times more likely in African-Americans. These individuals also seem to develop glaucoma at younger ages.
  • Glaucoma is a leading cause of asymptomatic preventable blindness.
  • As people grow older, both cataract and glaucoma occur more frequently.
  • People with macular degeneration can also have glaucoma.
  • It is encouraging to know that once glaucoma is discovered, therapy is usually successful in minimizing any further visual loss. It is therefore almost "good news" to learn that you have glaucoma because it means that it is likely that we can preserve your current level of visual function.
  • The quality of most people's lives, outside of taking medications, does not change after they learn they have glaucoma. It is our goal to help maintain your lifestyle as close to the way it was before you learned you had glaucoma.
  • Alcohol does not raise your eye's pressure. However, alcohol is potentially a "dangerous drug" and should be used only in moderation.
  • Marijuana does lower your eye pressure. However, our goal is to treat your eye with minimal effects on the rest of your body. Marijuana does the exact opposite. Many people have tried to synthesize marijuana eye drops, but it does not work well for many reasons. There is no legal way to obtain marijuana for glaucoma. It should not be used.