Glaucoma

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    This booklet is for people with glaucoma and
    their families and friends. It provides information about open-angle glaucoma,
    the most common form of glaucoma. This booklet answers questions about the cause
    and symptoms of the disease and discusses diagnosis and types of
    treatment.

    The National Eye Institute (NEI) conducts and supports research
    that leads to sight-saving treatments and plays a key role in reducing visual
    impairment and blindness. The NEI is part of the National Institutes of Health
    (NIH), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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    What is glaucoma?

    Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve and
    result in vision loss and blindness. However, with early treatment, you can
    often protect your eyes against serious vision loss.

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    What is the optic nerve?

    The optic nerve is a bundle of more than 1 million nerve fibers. It connects
    the retina to the brain. (See diagram below.) The retina is the light-sensitive
    tissue at the back of the eye. A healthy optic nerve is necessary for good
    vision.

    Glaucoma section

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    How does open-angle glaucoma damage the optic nerve?

    In the front of the eye is a space called the anterior chamber. A clear fluid
    flows continuously in and out of the chamber and nourishes nearby tissues. The
    fluid leaves the chamber at the open angle where the cornea and iris meet. (See
    diagram below.) When the fluid reaches the angle, it flows through a spongy
    meshwork, like a drain, and leaves the eye.

    Sometimes, when the fluid reaches the angle, it passes too slowly through the
    meshwork drain. As the fluid builds up, the pressure inside the eye rises to a
    level that may damage the optic nerve. When the optic nerve is damaged from
    increased pressure, open-angle glaucoma–and vision loss–may result. That’s why
    controlling pressure inside the eye is important.

    Diagram of an eye before the surgery is performed

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    Does increased eye pressure mean that I have glaucoma?

    Not necessarily. Increased eye pressure means you are at risk for glaucoma,
    but does not mean you have the disease. A person has glaucoma only if the optic
    nerve is damaged. If you have increased eye pressure but no damage to the optic
    nerve, you do not have glaucoma. However, you are at risk. Follow the advice of
    your eye care professional.

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