Glaucoma Key Facts and Stats (text-only version)

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Key Facts and Stat About Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve, which transmits images to your brain, and gets worse over time. It typically occurs when fluid builds up in the front of the eye. The extra fluid increases the pressure in the eye (called intraocular pressure or IOP), damaging the optic nerve.

Types of Glaucoma

  • Open-angle glaucoma
    The most common type of glaucoma, occurs when the eye does not drain fluid as well as it should, resulting in eye pressure building and damaging the optic nerve. Open-angle glaucoma is often painless and can cause vision loss over time.
  • Angle-closure glaucoma
    Occurs when the colored portion of your eye, the iris, is pushed or pulled forward causing blockage to the drainage angle in the eye. When the drainage angle is completely blocked, and fluids are trapped inside the eye, eye pressure rises very quickly and causes an acute attack which can result in blindness.

Facts & Figures

Glaucoma is one of the primary causes of irreversible vision loss and blindness. Estimates put the total number of suspected cases of glaucoma at around 70 million worldwide.

This progressive disease is characterized by elevated IOP. Uncontrolled, elevated and fluctuating IOP can cause damage to the optic nerve and loss of vision.

  • Up to 59% of patients on treatment continue to progress, meaning they experience vision loss and/or damage to the optic nerve.
  • Up to 80% of patients are not using topical medications as prescribed. Poor adherence to topical medications can lead to disease progression and vision loss.

Who is at risk?

Risk factors for glaucoma include:

  • Increased intraocular pressure (IOP)
  • Increasing age
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • African-American, Asian, or Hispanic descent
  • Thin corneas
  • Prior eye injury
  • Diabetes, high blood pressure, or other health problems affecting the whole body


One of the main challenges of glaucoma is that there are usually no symptoms in early stages, which is why it’s so important to have regular eye exams by an eye doctor.

The following tests may be performed by an eye doctor as part of a comprehensive dilated eye exam during a glaucoma evaluation:

  • Measure visual acuity
  • Measure intraocular pressure
  • Inspect the eye’s drainage angle
  • Inspect the optic nerve
  • Test your peripheral (side) vision
  • Take a picture or computer measurement of optic nerve
  • Measure cornea thickness

Vision impairment may be associated with reduced quality of life and decreased ability to perform activities of daily living, including loss of independence restricted mobility and depression and anxiety.

What are the current treatment options?

Reduction of elevated IOP is the only proven way to slow the progression and vision loss associated with glaucoma.

  • Topical medications (eye drops): This is the standard for open-angle glaucoma treatment
  • Minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS) and incisional surgery
  • Laser trabeculoplasty: A high energy laser beam opens clogged drainage canals and helps facilitate drainage, reducing IOP

The Real Burden of Glaucoma

Even before people progress to the point of blindness, vision loss affects them in multiple ways because the brain adapts and compensates for some loss of vision.

Thus, it’s not surprising that:

  • People with glaucoma have 3X greater risk of falls.
  • People with glaucoma are at 6X greater risk of automobile accidents.

BrightFocus thanks Allergan, an AbbVie Company, for these materials in support of our patient education efforts. 

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