Glaucoma refers to a group of eye conditions that lead to damage to the optic nerve, which carries visual information from the eye to the brain. In many cases, damage to the optic nerve is due to increased pressure in the eye, also known as intraocular pressure.
There are different types of glaucoma, but exfoliation glaucoma is the most common identifiable cause. It is caused by a disorder in which flaky white material accumulates in the eye. Most people have no symptoms until they begin to gradually lose peripheral (side) vision. About 10% of people over the age of 50 show signs of exfoliation glaucoma and 8% of them go on to develop glaucoma.
Risk factors include diabetes, nearsightedness, regular long-term steroid/cortisone use, previous eye injury, a family history of glaucoma, extremely high or low blood pressure, and high eye pressure. Genetic markers have been identified that show increased risk. Early diagnosis before optic nerve damage and management of the fluid pressure within in the eye with medication or other treatments help prevent blindness.