Symptoms and Diagnosis
Glaucoma can develop in one or both eyes. Often there are no symptoms at first, but a comprehensive eye exam can detect it. The most common type, open-angle glaucoma, causes no pain, and vision seems normal. Without treatment, however, people will slowly lose their peripheral, or side vision. They seem to be looking through a tunnel. Over time, straight-ahead vision may decrease until no vision remains.
The most common treatments for glaucoma are medication and surgery. Although open-angle glaucoma cannot be cured, it can usually be controlled. Treatment may save remaining vision. Medications for glaucoma may be either eye drops or pills. Some drugs reduce pressure by slowing the flow of fluid into the eye. Others help to improve fluid drainage. For most people with glaucoma, regular use of medications will control the increased fluid pressure. But, these drugs may stop working over time. Or, they may cause side effects. If a problem occurs, the eye care professional may select other drugs, change the dose, or suggest other ways to deal with the problem.
Laser surgery may also be used to ease the exit of fluid from the eye, lessening pressure on the optic nerve. Over time, the effect may wear off and patients may need to keep taking drugs.
Researchers are studying the causes of glaucoma, looking for ways to improve its diagnosis and treatment. For instance, the National Eye Institute is funding a number of studies to find out what causes fluid pressure to increase in the eye. The NEI also supports clinical trials of new drugs and promising surgical techniques. There has been progress in understanding the genetics of glaucoma in the last few years, including the discovery of genes found to be associated with many of the disease's forms.