About Glaucoma

Key Points

  • Glaucoma damages the eye's optic nerve, and can result in vision loss or blindness.
  • Half of people with glaucoma don't know they have it.
  • Learn about glaucoma, and how you can reduce your risk of vision loss.
Woman outside lying on the ground

Facts about glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye's optic nerve and can result in vision loss and even blindness. About 3 million Americans have glaucoma, and it's the second leading cause of blindness worldwide.

Open-angle glaucoma, the most common form, results in increased eye pressure. There are often no early symptoms, which is why 50% of people with glaucoma don't know they have it.

There is no cure (yet) for glaucoma, but if it's caught early, you can preserve your vision and prevent vision loss. Taking action to preserve your vision health is key.

Risk factors

Anyone can get glaucoma, but certain groups of people have a higher risk, including:

  • Black people over age 40.
  • All people over age 60.
  • People with a family history of glaucoma.
  • People who have diabetes.

Black people are 6 to 8 times more likely to get glaucoma than White people. People with diabetes are 2 times more likely to get glaucoma than people without diabetes.

Prevent vision loss

There are many steps you can take to help protect your eyes and lower your risk of vision loss from glaucoma.

If you have a high risk, get a comprehensive dilated eye exam to catch glaucoma early and start treatment. Your eye doctor will recommend how often to return for follow-up exams. Medicare covers a glaucoma test once a year for people in high-risk groups. Even if you don't have a high risk, comprehensive dilated eye exams can help catch glaucoma and other eye diseases early.

Open-angle glaucoma does not have symptoms and runs in families. Talk to your family about their vision health to help protect your eyes—and theirs.

Create healthy habits like maintaining a healthy weight, controlling your blood pressure, being physically active, and avoiding smoking. These actions will help you avoid vision loss from glaucoma. They'll also help prevent type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions.

African American couple on bikes
Healthy habits can help you avoid vision loss from glaucoma.

Manage and treat glaucoma

Vision loss from glaucoma usually affects peripheral vision (what you see to the side while looking forward) first. Later, it will affect your central (forward-facing) vision.

Glaucoma is treated with eye drops, oral medicine, or surgery (or a combination of treatments) to reduce pressure in the eye. These treatments can prevent or delay permanent vision loss.

Take medicine as prescribed, and tell your eye doctor about any side effects. You may be recommended laser or surgical procedures to reduce the pressure in your eye. Make sure to schedule regular follow-up visits to continue to monitor eye pressure.