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Focus on: Glaucoma

Podcast—What is glaucoma?

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M: According to the National Eye Institute an estimated 2.2 million Americans have been diagnosed with glaucoma. It is estimated that the number of people who have glaucoma will only increase, reaching an estimated 3.3 million people by the year 2020 because of the rapidly aging U.S. population. Dr. Lee Ball optometrist at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a member of the National Eye Health Education Program Planning Committee explains more about the disease responsible for these alarming statistics.

Dr. Ball: Glaucoma is a group of diseases that affects the optic nerve. It generally is caused by high pressure, although normal pressure in some instances can still cause damage to the nerve. The optic nerve you can think of it as a fiber optic cable. It is comprised of over one million individual nerves that carries information received from the eye to the brain which interprets what we see. When pressure damages the optic nerve we begin to lose vision, peripheral vision first and then if left untreated it can lead to blindness.

M: Although there are several types of glaucoma primary open angle glaucoma is the most common form of the disease. Currently there is no known cure for glaucoma, fortunately however, there are a number of treatment options including medications, laser surgery and conventional surgery. These can help reduce the effects of the disease especially when it is detected early. For more information about glaucoma and its symptoms visit www.nei.nih.gov/glaucoma. For the National Eye Institute this has been a focus on glaucoma.

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