Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma
What is primary open-angle glaucoma?
The definition of glaucoma has changed drastically since its introduction around the time of Hippocrates in approximately 400 BC.
The word glaucoma came from ancient Greek, meaning clouded or blue-green hue, most likely describing a person with a swollen cornea or who was rapidly developing a cataract, both of which may be caused by chronic (long-term) elevated pressure inside the eye. Pressure inside the eye is termed intraocular pressure. Eye pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Normal eye pressure ranges from 10-21 mm Hg. Elevated intraocular pressure is an eye pressure of greater than 21 mm Hg.
The concept of glaucoma has been refined, particularly over the last 100 years. Currently, glaucoma is defined as damage to the optic nerve that is usually caused by high pressure inside the eye. This optic nerve damage can usually be stopped but cannot be reversed by adequate lowering of intraocular pressure.
The generic term glaucoma should only be used to refer to the entire group of glaucomatous disorders, because multiple subsets of glaucomatous disease exist. A more precise term should be used to describe the glaucoma if the specific diagnosis is known.
Primary open-angle glaucoma is a major health concern throughout the world because of its usually silent, progressive nature and because it is one of the leading preventable causes of blindness in the world. With appropriate screening and treatment by an ophthalmologist (a medical doctor who specializes in eye care and surgery), glaucoma can usually be identified and stopped before significant vision loss occurs.
The prevalence of primary open-angle glaucoma may differ between races. Some studies have found that the average intraocular pressure inblack people is higher than in white people, while other studies have found no difference. Many possible etiologies, particularly genetic, are likely for these differences. Consequently, further study needs to be conducted to clarify this issue, but some statistics regarding race are noted below.
Reports on the prevalence of primary open-angle glaucoma between men and women also differ.
Intraocular pressure slowly rises with increasing age, just as glaucoma becomes more prevalent as you get older.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/21/2016
Jerald A Bell, MD
Richard W Allinson, MD
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
Robert H Graham, MD
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