Glaucoma is not a single clinical disease. It is a combination of ocular conditions that result in damage to the optic nerve head and a loss of the visual field. The damage to the optic nerve may be in part due to an abnormal intraocular pressure, which can eventually lead to a loss of vision. Most forms of glaucoma follow the classic triad of (1) increased intraocular pressure, (2) optic nerve damage, and (3) a loss of side vision.
It is extremely important for the doctor to evaluate each of the three elements before diagnosing a specific type of glaucoma. Glaucoma can be caused by many different disorders, and it occurs in all races and at all ages. Glaucomatous vision loss is permanent, but with early intervention and prevention, visual loss can be minimized.
Facts and statistics on glaucoma
Glaucoma is the second most common cause of blindness in Americans and the number one cause in African Americans. It is believed that there are over 2.3 million Americans with primary open angle glaucoma (POAG) of which only half have been diagnosed. Of those 2.3 million Americans with POAG, over 80,000 are legally blind from the disease.
POAG has a higher prevalence in the African American population than in Caucasians. It has been found to have an earlier onset by approximately 10 years, is more aggressive, and is more resistant to treatment. The ratio of glaucoma in African Americans to Caucasians is 4:1.