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Glaucoma is an eye disorder that results from increased pressure in the eye damaging the optic nerve, the nerve the eye uses to communicate with the brain. Vision loss from glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness for people over 60.

The damage occurs slowly. Someone with glaucoma may not have any symptoms at first, or they may not appear until the condition has progressed. The only way to diagnose glaucoma is with a regular comprehensive dilated eye exam. Early detection is critical to slowing down or stopping vision loss.

Increased Eye Pressure

Increased eye pressure or ocular hypertension can cause glaucoma if it damages the optic nerve. Anyone can develop ocular hypertension, but some people have a higher risk, including African-Americans, Hispanics, people who are nearsighted, people on long-term steroids, those with high blood pressure, and people over 40.

People with increased eye pressure are usually closely monitored so that glaucoma does not develop.

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Blood Pressure

Research shows both high and low blood pressure is associated with an increased risk of glaucoma. Evidence indicates that excessive dips in blood pressure or low blood pressure at night can affect how quickly the vision condition progresses.

People with high blood pressure and glaucoma should be closely monitored, and studies show that drugs to treat systemic high blood pressure have little effect on eye pressure.

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Diabetes

There are some conflicting opinions about whether people with diabetes are more prone to glaucoma or if they are diagnosed with it more frequently because they are monitored more closely in general. That said, some studies have determined that there is a definitive association between the two.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, because diabetes damages the small blood vessels in the eyes, it can cause many eye problems, including glaucoma.

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Trauma

Any trauma to the eye can cause increased eye pressure. Without appropriate treatment, this can lead to glaucoma. Complicating matters is the fact that people with eye trauma cannot always be reliably tested for glaucoma due to the injury, and repairing eye injuries can also lead to increased eye pressure.

One study showed that 23.3 percent of patients had increased eye pressure after injury repairs, and 6.3 percent went on to develop glaucoma. Follow-up care is also essential; 3.4 percent of people with blunt trauma to the eye had glaucoma at six months post-injury; at ten years, it was as high as 10 percent.

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Cancer

Glaucomas related to eye cancer are challenging to diagnose. Cancer can affect eye pressure in many ways, from directly invading the eye to blocking the vessels in the eye and affecting the eye's ability to drain. Prompt diagnosis is necessary, both to prevent vision loss and to save the patient's life.

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Uveitis

Uveitis is a condition that involves inflammation of the eye, and there are multiple types. Causes include infections, inflammatory diseases, and trauma, or it may occur from unknown causes. About 20 percent of people with uveitis develop glaucoma. Experts believe the inflammation and scar tissue caused by uveitis may block the part of the eye where the fluid drains, leading to high eye pressure.

Steroids are often used to treat uveitis and can also cause or worsen glaucoma.

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Exfoliation Syndrome

Exfoliation syndrome occurs when extracellular material accumulates in the eye. People with this condition are likely to have more severe glaucoma and a worse prognosis than those with glaucoma for other reasons.

Researchers suspect that exfoliation syndrome is a systemic disorder that may also be associated with other severe conditions like stroke and hypertension.

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Eye Pigments

When the pigment from the colored part of the eye flakes off and blocks the fluid from draining, it can lead to pigmentary glaucoma. This condition is more likely to affect young, white, near-sighted men. Doctors treat pigmentary glaucoma by lowering the eye pressure, but there is no way to prevent the pigment from continuing to flake off of the iris.

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Genetics

Congenital galucoma affects about one in 10,000 babies in the U.S. It occurs when babies are born with a problem that prevents their eyes from draining normally. This condition is usually pretty easy to spot. Infants with congenital glaucoma may have cloudy eyes, make extra tears, be sensitive to light, or have eyes that appear larger than normal.

Infants with this condition usually respond well to surgery. They typically do not experience permanent vision loss if treated early enough.

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The Iris

Although rare, the iris itself can cause glaucoma. When this happens, it is considered a medical emergency. The edge of the iris blocks fluid from draining from the front of the eye. Pressure builds quickly, leading to a sudden and severe increase in pressure that can result in blindness within days.

Signs of this type of glaucoma include severe eye pain, blurry vision, red eyes, and nausea. Treatment consists of laser surgery and medication to reduce pressure and protect the patient's vision.

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This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.