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Frequently Asked Questions

Latest Questions and Answers
Are some people at greater risk of developing glaucoma? [ 11/04/14 ]

Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness among African Americans and Hispanics in the U.S. Open-angle glaucoma is three to four times more common in African Americans than in non-Hispanic Whites. Between the ages of 45 and 64, glaucoma is fifteen times more likely to cause blindness in African Americans than in Caucasians. All people older than 60 are at a greater risk of developing glaucoma than people who are younger.


What resources are available to help people with glaucoma and their caregivers? [ 11/04/14 ]

There are a great many resources available to people with low vision and their caretakers. For instance, every state has an agency on aging. You may find it in the phone book, online, or with the help of a librarian or friend.

Professional low vision therapists at eye clinics or other organizations can assist you. Let your eye doctor know what kind of limitations you are experiencing due to vision loss. He or she can then refer you to a vision rehabilitation center, where a low vision therapist can work with you to help you adapt and resolve specific problems.

You can also modify your environment, use low vision aids, develop your senses of hearing and touch, and practice using peripheral vision. Your doctor can prescribe optical devices such as magnifiers. Many non-prescription magnifying glasses and devices are also available to assist with reading and other close work, such as sewing or model-building. These devices range from the simple and inexpensive to more expensive high-tech products that can aid in using computers and watching television.

Many styles of magnifiers, including discreet ones, can be found at drug stores, medical supply stores, or may be ordered online or by phone through low vision product catalogs. A hand-held magnifying glass can help with reading medicine bottle labels, mail, price tags in stores, and restaurant menus. Other magnifiers come in the form of eyeglasses or clip onto glasses to free your hands for other activities.

Commonly used household items with large numbers and letters, and others that "talk," are also available. There are many sources for large-print books and audio materials, as well as services that read newspapers and magazines by phone or over the radio.

Electronic reading aids are proliferating, such as: computer programs that magnify the computer screen and/or read screen text out loud; special scanners to carry while shopping that read out prices, sizes, and colors; web browser plug-ins; and smartphone applications. One specialized device can take pictures of signs or menus and read the words in the pictures aloud.


Where can I find more information about glaucoma? [ 11/04/14 ]

The BrightFocus National Glaucoma Research website goes into greater depth on many topics and covers additional areas of concern, both medical and social. You can learn where to get help and access to resources, as well as download free publications. And explore our Ask an Expert section where you can read or post queries to doctors. For more information dealing with the topics below, please visit the helpful organizations section of our website.

  • Clinical Trials
  • Organizations of Eye-care Professionals
  • Federal Government Programs and Services
  • General Information, Resources and Referrals
  • Legal Assistance
  • Low Vision Aid Resources
  • Low Vision Organizations
  • Print and Audio Materials for the Visually Impaired
  • Senior Housing
  • State and Local Resources

What new research is being done to find a cure for glaucoma? [ 11/04/14 ]

New research is focused on lowering pressure inside the eye, and finding medications to protect and preserve the optic nerve from the damage that causes vision loss. Scientists are also investigating the role of genetics in glaucoma, and over the last few years their understanding of this factor has progressed. Researchers have discovered genes associated with congenital glaucoma, juvenile glaucoma, normal-tension glaucoma, adult-onset open-angle glaucoma, pigmentary glaucoma and other conditions related to secondary glaucoma.


Can you have glaucoma without having increased pressure inside the eye? [ 11/04/14 ]

Elevated eye pressure increases the risk of developing glaucoma; however, the disease can occur in people with normal or even lower-than-normal eye pressure. It is optic nerve damage that can lead to vision loss and possible blindness. In many people, fluid pressure increases inside the eye and damages the optic nerve (the bundle of nerve fibers that carries information from the eye to the brain). In addition, individuals with higher-than-normal eye pressure do not always develop the symptoms of glaucoma.

Since normal-tension glaucoma does not involve high eye pressure, it is diagnosed by observing the optic nerve for any signs of damage. The eye doctor will use an ophthalmoscope to look through the pupil at the shape and color of the optic nerve. In addition, a visual field test can help determine if there is any loss of peripheral vision. The risk factors for developing normal-tension glaucoma include a family history of glaucoma, low eye pressure, and cardiovascular disease. Ongoing research is aimed at determining all of the factors that contribute to the optic nerve damage. For example, scientists believe the optic nerve may be affected by blood flow in the eye. Researchers are also investigating susceptibility and genetic factors.


Can glaucoma be cured by laser techniques? [ 11/04/14 ]

Laser surgery can aid in controlling the symptoms of glaucoma, but no treatments currently available will cure the disease. Several forms of laser surgery can help fluid drain from the eye or decrease the amount of fluid produced. These techniques support the maintenance of normal eye pressure and minimize the risk of further damage to the optic nerve.


What is considered normal eye pressure? [ 11/04/14 ]

Unfortunately, the answer is not any single number. While the average eye pressure is approximately 15, the range of normal eye pressure is much larger. About 90 percent of people will fall between a pressure of 10 and 21. Even so, this does not mean that if you have a pressure of 22 or higher it is abnormal. Every individual and every eye is different. There are many patients with pressures in the mid-20s who do not have glaucoma, and they can be followed with routine eye examinations by their eye care specialist. There are also patients who have been diagnosed with glaucoma and yet, even though treatment may decrease their pressure below 22, they still experience worsening of their glaucoma.

It is important that you see an eye care specialist to receive a thorough examination and determine if your eye pressure is problematic.


Is there any scientific evidence to show that medical marijuana is beneficial to people with glaucoma? [ 11/04/14 ]

Marijuana derivatives taken orally, intravenously, or by smoking lower the eye pressure only briefly. The active ingredient does not cause reduction of eye pressure when administered in an eye drop formulation. The effects of marijuana are brief, lasting only hours, and are thus not suitable for long-term eye pressure control. Because marijuana can also reduce blood pressure briefly, it may be associated with reduced blood supply to the optic nerve, which could adversely affect patients with glaucoma. Thus, medical marijuana is not recommended in the treatment of glaucoma.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is a public service of the BrightFocus Foundation and should not in any way substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional; it is not intended to constitute medical advice. Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice. BrightFocus Foundation does not endorse any medical product or therapy. All medications and supplements should only be taken under medical supervision. Also, although we make every effort to keep the medical information on our website updated, we cannot guarantee that the posted information reflects the most up-to-date research.

Some of the content in this section is adapted from other sources, which are clearly identified within each individual item of information.

Source: BrightFocus Foundation is grateful to Carla J. Siegfried, M.D. at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri for reviewing aspects of the above content.

Last Review: 04/28/13


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