Glaucoma is an eye disease characterized by damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve is the “cable” that connects the eye to the brain and each optic nerve contains over 1 million nerve fibers. When these nerve fibers are lost due to glaucoma, irreversible loss of vision occurs.

In early glaucoma, vision is typically lost in the periphery and is not noticeable. As glaucoma damage progresses patients can sense dimness or loss of vision in the periphery that can work its way towards the central vision and ultimately cause complete loss of vision. Unless the eye pressure is very high, most people feel no discomfort or warning symptoms from this condition. In other words, glaucoma in its early form typically has no symptoms but without treatment can progress and result in irreversible vision loss. Fortunately, glaucoma tends to progress slowly and with early detection and treatment vision loss can usually be prevented.

Glaucoma is relatively common, affecting 2% of the American population over age 40 and 5.5% of African-Americans over age 40. The prevalence of glaucoma increases with age. It is the second leading cause of blindness in America, after macular degeneration, and is the leading cause of vision loss in African-Americans. Worldwide, it is the leading cause of irreversible blindness. In 2020, approximately 80 million people worldwide were affected, and over 11 million people had been blinded by glaucoma. Because in most forms of glaucoma the patient has no awareness of the disease, early testing and diagnosis is required.

The biggest risk factors for glaucoma include:

Diagnosis and Testing

The diagnosis of glaucoma is made by assessing multiple factors including the appearance of the optic nerve, testing of the visual fields, imaging of the nerve fiber layer, and measuring intraocular pressure. Putting these factors together a determination can be made whether a person has glaucoma and the severity of disease.


Depending on multiple factors, patients can either be assigned to observation or treatment of disease. Treatment for glaucoma entails three main avenues, which includes topical drop therapy, laser treatment, and/or surgery. Modern surgical techniques continue to evolve, giving us additional avenues to help patients. Unfortunately, treatment cannot repair damage to the optic nerve but is designed to lower intraocular pressure and modify the one risk factor that we can have some control over.

The good news is that with early diagnosis the vast majority of people with glaucoma can be treated successfully and vision loss may be avoided. Currently there are many new advances in glaucoma care that will ideally allow for less dependence on drop therapy and better long term control of intraocular pressure. At Glacier Eye clinic we offer a full array of glaucoma therapy, including traditional surgical and laser techniques as well as modern microinvasive glaucoma surgical technologies, known as MIGs. We tailor treatment to each unique patient scenario to give the best possible chance of success and preservation of vision.

Each of our ophthalmologists and optometrists provide screening and treatment of glaucoma and are capable of providing much of the care. Dr. Roger Barth has additional subspecialty training in glaucoma and leads our efforts against this disease.

If you or someone you know has glaucoma or has questions about their condition, please contact our clinic.

Additional information about glaucoma and treatment can be found on the American Glaucoma Society and American Academy of Ophthalmology websites.