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What is Glaucoma?

This is part 1 of an interview with Dr. Altig on the topic of Glaucoma. Please, Dr. Altig, tell us: What is Glaucoma?

Eye diagram showing fluid exitsDr. Altig: Glaucoma is the fluid in your eye that keeps the eye in a ball shape. The body either starts to manufacture too much of the fluid, or the drainage mechanism for the fluid (since the body is constantly manufacturing this fluid and draining it) can get clogged up. This will cause an increase in pressure, which then cuts off the blood supply to the nerves of the eye. Then the nerves atrophy and die from lack of blood supply. When the nerves die out, the person will slowly lose their vision and go blind.

Many people think that since they see just fine and their vision hasn't changed, they don't need to get their eyes examined. However, this is not true. Glaucoma has another name, "The Silent Killer of Sight".  Glaucoma gets this name because about 95% of patients with Glaucoma have no symptoms whatsoever, but they are slowly going blind.

Glaucoma can occur at any age, but is most common in older people due to the fact that as part of the aging process, the glands in our body system don't work as efficiently as they used to and either produce too much fluid or the drainage of the fluid gets clogged or is faulty. It is rare to have someone under 30 get Glaucoma, but typically we start watching very closely for it from age 30 and older. The older someone is, the chances of getting Glaucoma increase significantly.

Females have twice the chance of getting Glaucoma than males, and we are still not sure why this is. African American females are the highest group at risk for Glaucoma - they are 3 times more likely than an African American male to contract Glaucoma.

What about me, Dr Altig? I am a Caucasian male, 42 years old. What are my chances of getting Glaucoma?

Dr. Altig:  A 42-year-old Caucasian male has 1 to 50 chance of contracting Glaucoma in the next 20 years. Every 10 years the risk of getting Glaucoma goes up significantly. An 85-year-old Caucasian male would have a 1 to 20 chance of getting Glaucoma.