FRIDAY, April 20 (HealthDay News) -- Though glaucoma has been nicknamed the silent thief of sight, eye experts now say it generally doesn't have to be that way.
"For most people, if you treat early, you should have vision for a lifetime," said Dr. Mark Fromer, an ophthalmologist at Lenox Hill Hospital and medical director of the Fromer Eye Centers, both in New York City, and the eye surgeon director for the New York Rangers hockey team.
Glaucoma isn't just one disease but a group of conditions that cause damage to the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain. Left untreated, glaucoma can in fact cause blindness. And because the disease can progress for long periods undetected, experts stress that checkups and early detection are key to maintaining vision.
Most forms of glaucoma develop because of increased pressure in the eye, according to the Glaucoma Foundation. High eye pressure, also known as intraocular pressure, is the biggest risk factor for developing glaucoma. However, some people have what's called normal tension glaucoma, and they can have optic nerve damage even when eye pressure is normal.
"Some people are just more susceptible to optic nerve damage," Fromer noted.
The most common form of glaucoma is called primary open-angle glaucoma, he said. The angle referred to is where the cornea and the iris meet. Fluid normally drains through the angle. Sometimes, however, the fluid drains too slowly, which allows it to build up and increase the pressure in the eye. The increased pressure causes optic nerve damage, and, as the damage increases, so does peripheral vision loss.
If the angle narrows or closes completely, an acute form of glaucoma can develop. The pressure rises quickly and causes pain, blurred vision and halos around lights. This is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment to save vision.
"If you develop sever
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