If you think of your bathtub drain being covered by hair, you get the picture of what happened with glaucoma.
Basically, the draining system of your eye clogs up, so the fluid can't drain out. This creates a lot of pressure on the optic nerve and it can eventually lead to blindness.
You can have either acute-angle glaucoma (which is a sudden problem with drainage), or a wide-angle glaucoma (which is a more gradual, chronic problem). Smoking may contribute to glaucoma.
How does glaucoma rob you of sight? Think of the optic nerve as a fiber-optic cable bundle used by the phone and cable companies with over a million fibers. As we age, a few of these fibers die. In people with glaucoma, these fibers die at a higher rate than normal, often because of the high pressure in your eye.
When about one-third of these fibers die, we begin to lose parts of our visual field. As further fibers die, you become aware of loss of your side vision (probably by this point, over half of the nerve is gone). With untreated glaucoma, all fibers eventually die and you lose sight completely.
You probably won't notice early signs of glaucoma, because it affects more of the peripheral vision at first, rather than the center. That's why getting regular eye exams and glaucoma tests are critical.
Ophthalmologists can detect glaucoma early and treat it with a combination of eye drops, lasers, and occasionally surgery. Only regular eye examinations can diagnose glaucoma early enough for proper treatment. The better you take care of your general medical health, the better your chances of preserving vision if you develop glaucoma.
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