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Glaucoma

What Causes Glaucoma?

Last updated on:
27/03/2012

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

The eye is filled with aqueous humor and vitreous humor.

  • Aqueous humor is a clear fluid in the front part of the eye.
  • Vitreous humor is a clear, jelly-like substance that fills the eye behind the lens and helps the eyeball keep its shape.

In a normal eye, aqueous humor is produced, circulates through the eye, and then drains out through the trabecular meshwork, which is the eye's filtration system. This is a series of tiny channels near the angle formed by the cornea (the clear portion of the eye), the iris (the colored portion of the eye), and the sclera (the white of the eye).

If there is any sort of blockage in these channels, pressure builds up inside the eyeball.

Nice To Know:

Imagine a garden hose with water flowing through it. If you plug the hose, the water pressure builds up. Eventually it will damage the hose.

Untreated pressure in the eye can damage and eventually destroy the optic nerve, leading to blindness. But, surprisingly, there are some people who suffer from glaucoma even though they have normal pressure in their eyes. There also are people who have pressure in their eyes and yet do not suffer from glaucoma. Researchers are still trying to figure out why.

  • Somewhere between 20 and 25 percent of people with glaucoma have normal (and maybe even low) eye pressure.
  • Some people with high eye pressure, which is also called ocular hypertension, do not have glaucoma, and never will.

Nice To Know:

What is normal eye pressure?

Eye pressure is measured in numbers, but there is no "normal" number for eye pressure. The average pressure, however, is about 16.

High eye pressure doesn't guarantee that a person will develop glaucoma. But it is one of the risk factors. A person with an eye pressure of 25, for example, is 13 times more likely to have glaucoma than a person with an eye pressure of 15.

Glaucoma can be hereditary, although having people in your family with glaucoma does not necessarily mean that you will develop it.

 
 

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.