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If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma, you probably have a lot of questions.
Following are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about glaucoma, excerpted from Glaucoma Research Foundation's free educational booklet, Understanding and Living with Glaucoma.
Fortunately, for most patients the answer is no. Blindness does occur from glaucoma, but it is a relatively rare occurrence in about 5% of glaucoma patients. However, sight impairment is more common and occurs in about 10% of patients.
Correct treatment and follow-up will stabilize the vast majority of patients with glaucoma. By working with your doctor to manage your glaucoma, a favorable outcome is more likely.
You will have periodic visits with your doctor to check on your condition, and you may need to take eye drop medications as a part of your daily routine, but overall you can continue with what you were doing before you were diagnosed with glaucoma. You can make new plans and start new ventures. The eye care community, including the Glaucoma Research Foundation, is here to support you and will keep looking for better methods to treat glaucoma and eventually find a cure.
Some daily activities such as driving or playing certain sports may become more challenging. Loss of contrast sensitivity (the ability to see shades of the same color,) problems with glare, and light sensitivity are some of the possible effects of glaucoma that may interfere with your activities.
The key is to trust your judgment. If you are having trouble seeing at night, you may want to consider not driving at night. Stay safe by adjusting your schedule so that you do most of your travel during the day.
Sunglasses or tinted lenses can help with glare and contrast. Yellow, amber, and brown are the best tints to block out glare from fluorescent lights. On a bright day, try using glasses with brown lenses. For overcast days or at night, try using the lighter tints of yellow and amber. Experiment to see what works best for you under different circumstances.
As a newly diagnosed person with glaucoma, you may need to have your eye pressure checked every week or month until it is under control. Even when your eye pressure is at a safe level, you may need to see your doctor several times a year for checkups. How often you get checked by your eye doctor is part of the treatment plan you and your doctor will decide together.
People who have a family history of glaucoma may be at higher risk for developing the condition, so you should encourage your family members to go to an eye doctor to have their eye pressure and optic nerves checked regularly. Many people are unaware of the importance of eye checkups and do not know that individuals with glaucoma may have no symptoms.
Glaucoma is not curable, and vision lost cannot be restored. With medication, laser treatment and surgery, it is possible to slow or stop further loss of vision. Since open-angle glaucoma cannot be cured, it must be monitored for life. Diagnosis is the first step to preserving your vision.
Some forms of glaucoma are inherited, and many scientists worldwide are studying genes and their influence on glaucoma. But in many cases, glaucoma is not inherited, and the factors leading to disease onset are not well understood.
In the retina, neurons (nerve cells) and the optic nerve are not regenerated once they are lost. However, many research centers are working to develop ways for replacing lost retinal neurons. If successful, this research could one day be applied to glaucoma and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Last reviewed on June 26, 2020