Definition: a condition in which pressure builds up in the eye because the channels that drain the eye narrow over time.
CausesYour eye is filled with a clear fluid which your body is continuously replacing. More fluid enters the eye in the back and the excess fluid drains through the front. As you age, the "drains" for the fluid become narrow and the eye cannot drain the excess fluid quickly enough. This fluid builds up and pressure increases in the eye. If the pressure gets high enough, it can damage the optic nerve because the pressure restricts the flow of blood to the nerve. This can cause vision loss and even blindness.
Risk FactorsGlaucoma seems to run in families. If a close relative has had glaucoma, you are at higher risk for the condition. People of African heritage are also at high risk for glaucoma.
TreatmentFor most cases of age-related glaucoma, prescription eye drops can relieve the pressure in the eye, preventing further damage. These eye drops do not "cure" glaucoma, but will usually prevent any loss of vision due to the condition.
PreventionEarly detection is critical to preventing glaucoma. People older than 40 should see an eye doctor at least every 5 years. Diabetics should visit an eye doctor yearly and people with elevated risk factors for glaucoma should also have more frequent appointments with an eye doctor.
Sources: ADAM Medical Encyclopedia. Glaucoma
ADAM Medical Encyclopedia. Glaucoma