Glaucoma describes a number of conditions that damage the optic nerve and affect vision. It is typically seen in people over the age of 45 and occurs when the fluid in the eye builds up and adds increased pressure on the optic nerve. It can also occur because of a weakness of the optic nerve due to a poor blood supply, or because of some other type of weakness of the nerve.
The condition can present in two ways.
- In the acute form (which is rare), it shows up as a painful, red eye with reduced vision.
- In the more common, chronic from, a patient may not be aware that they have the condition. It may only be detected during a routine eye examination.
The chronic form of glaucoma usually progresses slowly causing irreversible damage to the visual field. However, if detected early, it may be treatable. Once the pressure that is causing the problem is controlled, further damage to the eye and visual field is usually prevented.