Research to Prevent Blindness


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Glaucoma refers to a group of diseases -- open-angle glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma, low-tension or normal-tension glaucoma, congenital glaucoma, and secondary glaucoma -- where cells and fibers of the optic nerve are damaged, affecting the transmission of signals from the eye to the brain. It is usually progressive. At first there are no detectable symptoms but, eventually, vision narrows. Glaucoma can lead to blindness, but seldom does when diagnosed and treated early. 

View a video presentation on glaucoma from the National Eye Institute.

The eye is filled with nutrient-rich fluid, called aqueous humor. Normal intraocular pressure (IOP) is maintained through a balance between the fluid produced inside the eye and the amount drained. In glaucoma, excess fluid typically builds up because of a blockage of the drainage channels or filtering tissue called the trabecular meshwork. Researchers are developing treatments to help maintain the capacity of these drainage tissues.

Until recently, physicians and scientists believed that damage from glaucoma was solely due to increased intraocular pressure (IOP).  Medications and conventional or laser surgeries are typically prescribed to reduce the fluid build-up. Now, though, we know that high IOP does not always cause glaucoma and that glaucoma can even occur when IOP is normal.  Research supported by RPB shows that thickness of a patient's cornea may also be related to glaucoma onset.

Glaucoma poses an enormous public health problem. The government estimates that 2.2 million Americans have been diagnosed with glaucoma. Experts believe that nearly 2 million more may have the disease and not know it.

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