Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world and currently has no cure. In glaucoma patients, excess fluid within the eye builds up and puts pressure on the optic nerve. This pressure leads to irreversible vision loss.
Glaucoma is a group of diseases, the two most common being primary open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma.
Primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) is the most common type of glaucoma. There are typically no early warning signs or symptoms. In POAG, the drainage system (trabecular meshwork) within the front of the eye is clogged. Fluid is unable to cycle and drain as normal, thus leading to increased pressure within the eye. If POAG is not diagnosed and treated, it can cause gradual blindness over many years. POAG usually responds well to medication, especially if diagnosed and treated early.
Angle-closure glaucoma occurs when the iris is very close to the drainage angle in the eye, blocking the drainage angle. When the drainage angle is blocked in this way, eye pressure will rise very quickly in an "acute attack". Symptoms of an acute angle-closure glaucoma attack include severe eye pain and sudden blurry vision. Consult an ophthalmologist for more information. Most people with angle-closure glaucoma develop it slowly, with no symptoms prior to an acute attack. Angle-closure glaucoma can result in blindness if not treated.
The current treatment algorithm for glaucoma begins with eyedrops and medications, before progressing to laser surgery, manual surgery (trabeculectomy), minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS), and tube shunt implants.
According to a meta-analysis published in the American Academy of Ophthalmology Journal, 76 million people around the world will have glaucoma in 2020. This number will rise to 111.8 million in 2040, disproportionately affecting people residing in Asia and Africa. Today, over 3 million Americans have glaucoma, but only half are diagnosed.
Everyone is at risk for glaucoma, although people over 60 years old have higher risk. Babies can be born with glaucoma (1 out of every 10,000 babies born in the United States), and young adults can develop glaucoma. African Americans in particular are more susceptible at a younger age.