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Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve, and is a leading cause of preventable blindness.1 Glaucoma currently affects approximately 3 million people in the United States and 65 million people worldwide1 — numbers that can be expected to increase as the population ages.

Risk Factors and Symptoms

In its early stages, glaucoma may present few or no symptoms and can gradually steal sight without warning if left untreated. It is estimated that only half of the nearly 3 million Americans with glaucoma have been diagnosed.1

Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma, affecting more than two million Americans over the age of 40.2 The risk of developing glaucoma may increase for those who:

  • Are over 60 years old
  • Are very nearsighted
  • Have a family member with glaucoma
  • Are African-American or Hispanic
  • Have diabetes
  • Have elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) — fluid pressure inside of the eye
  • Have used steroids, such as prednisone or cortisones, for a long period of time


While there is no known way to cure or prevent glaucoma, early detection and intervention are the best methods for an improved outcome. Elevated IOP is the only treatable risk factor for glaucoma and can usually be lowered and controlled with prescription eye drops, sometimes in combination with pills. These medications decrease eye pressure, either by slowing the production of aqueous humor, a fluid in the eye, or by increasing the drainage of it from the eye. Laser treatment or even surgery may be needed when medical treatment alone is unable to prevent progression of optic nerve damage. Early detection and aggressive treatment to lower and control IOP can help preserve vision. If you suffer from glaucoma, talk to your eye care professional about treatment options.

  1. Glaucoma Research Foundation. Available at: Accessed: July 31, 2007

  2. Eye Surgery Education Council. Available at: Accessed April 1, 2007