What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma diagram

The “silent thief of sight” Glaucoma affects over 3 million Americans (65 million people worldwide). This is alarming since half of these people do not know they have the disease and may not learn of their problem until permanent vision loss has occurred. Because early glaucoma often has no warning symptoms and the vision loss “sneaks up” from your side vision, it has been called the “silent thief of sight”.

The Disease

Glaucoma is a disease involving damage to the optic nerve. The most common cause of glaucoma is higher-than-normal eye pressure.

The optic nerve is made up of a million tiny nerve fibers that carry information from the eye to the brain where images are formed of what our eyes see. The system functions like a video camera (the eye), connected by a cable (the optic nerve) to television (the brain). When exposed to high intraocular pressures for prolonged periods of time, the optic nerve fibers begin to die and consequently cannot relay visual information from the eye to the brain. This can also occur at normal pressures if you inherited a particularly weak optic nerve or have episodes of very low blood pressure.

What causes increased pressure in the eye?

The normal eye maintains its spherical shape (like an inflated balloon) by means of a watery fluid, called the aqueous humor, which is constantly secreted within the eye. As this fluid slowly drains out of the eye and into the bloodstream through small channels in the wall of the eye, the eye pressure is maintained at a constant, normal level. In contrast, tears are produced by glands around the eye and are totally different than the aqueous humor inside the eye.

If the aqueous drainage channels are blocked so that aqueous fluid is trapped inside the eye, then the pressure may build up to dangerous levels. Because the eye is a closed structure, this elevated eye pressure will push and damage the weakest part of the eye where the optic nerve fibers leave the eye at the optic disc. Loss of these nerve fibers causes “cupping” of the optic nerve. Cupping is one of the earliest signs of glaucoma.

The Effects

If untreated, vision loss or blindness will occur. Loss of optic nerve fibers causes blind spots to develop, usually in the peripheral (side) vision. This early loss often begins near your nose (which we tend to ignore) so it is rarely noticed by the patient. With continued high pressures, irreversible damage to the optic nerve causes loss of reading (central) vision & eventual blindness.

Fortunately, blindness is uncommon with early detection and regular treatment, like the care and expertise provided at EyeHealth Northwest. Patients participating in routine prevention and quality treatment regimens, significantly decrease their risk of vision loss & blindness.

Unfortunately, those who do not know that they have glaucoma and those who have been diagnosed but fail to keep regular follow-up visits are at the greatest risk of blindness. The vision loss caused by glaucoma is permanent since the optic nerve cannot be replaced or repaired, not even at the best eye centers around the world. Because of this, Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the US and the first cause of preventable blindness.

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Our Locations

Barnes Road
9555 SW Barnes Rd.
#201 (2nd floor)
Portland, OR 97225
(503) 227-2020 see more
Gresham
24601 SE Stark St.
Suite 245
Troutdale, OR 97060
(503) 255-2291 see more
Hillsboro
6111 NE Cornell Rd
Hillsboro, OR 97124
(503) 846-9400 see more
Milwaukie
11086 SE Oak St
Milwaukie, OR 97222
(503) 656-4221 see more
Mt. Tabor
5935 SE Division St.
Portland, OR 97206
503 777-5546 see more
North Portland
3246 N. Lombard
Portland, OR 97217
(503) 285-1671 see more
Northeast Portland
5050 NE Hoyt St., #245
Portland, OR 97213
(503) 255-2291 see more
Northwest Portland
1955 NW Northrup St
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 227-2020 see more
Oregon City
1306 Division St
Oregon City, OR 97045
(503) 656-4221 see more
Southeast Portland
10819 SE Stark St,
Portland, OR 97216
(503) 255-2291 see more
Sunnyside
12050 SE Stevens Rd, Suite 100
Happy Valley, OR 97086
(503) 783-3300 see more
Tigard
15298 SW Royalty Parkway
Tigard OR 97224
(503) 227-2020 see more
Wilsonville
29250 SW Town Center Loop W
Wilsonville, OR 97070
(503) 582-0000 see more
Westside Surgery Center
13240 SW Pacific Hwy
Portland, OR 97223
(503) 639-6571 see more
EyeHealth Eastside Surgery and Laser Center
12050 SE Stevens Rd.
Happy Valley, OR 97086
(971) 206-6100 see more

Our Locations

Barnes Road
9555 SW Barnes Rd.
#201 (2nd floor)
Portland, OR 97225
(503) 227-2020 see more
Gresham
24601 SE Stark St.
Suite 245
Troutdale, OR 97060
(503) 255-2291 see more
Hillsboro
6111 NE Cornell Rd
Hillsboro, OR 97124
(503) 846-9400 see more
Milwaukie
11086 SE Oak St
Milwaukie, OR 97222
(503) 656-4221 see more
Mt. Tabor
5935 SE Division St.
Portland, OR 97206
503 777-5546 see more
North Portland
3246 N. Lombard
Portland, OR 97217
(503) 285-1671 see more
Northeast Portland
5050 NE Hoyt St., #245
Portland, OR 97213
(503) 255-2291 see more
Northwest Portland
1955 NW Northrup St
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 227-2020 see more
Oregon City
1306 Division St
Oregon City, OR 97045
(503) 656-4221 see more
Southeast Portland
10819 SE Stark St,
Portland, OR 97216
(503) 255-2291 see more
Sunnyside
12050 SE Stevens Rd, Suite 100
Happy Valley, OR 97086
(503) 783-3300 see more
Tigard
15298 SW Royalty Parkway
Tigard OR 97224
(503) 227-2020 see more
Wilsonville
29250 SW Town Center Loop W
Wilsonville, OR 97070
(503) 582-0000 see more
Surgery Centers

Westside Surgery Center

13240 SW Pacific Hwy
Portland, OR 97223
(503) 639-6571 see more

EyeHealth Eastside Surgery and Laser Center

12050 SE Stevens Rd.
Happy Valley, OR 97086
(971) 206-6100 see more