Glaucoma is a complex disease that has many factors. The disease is characterized by optic nerve damage resulting in a decreased visual field. Most glaucoma patients exhibit increased intraocular pressure, or pressure inside the eye, but this is not always the case.
It may be more precise to say that patients with glaucoma have a sensitivity to ocular pressure. This sensitivity to ocular pressure translates to stress that damages the optic nerve. The optic nerve is responsible for transmitting visual information from the eye to the brain, and damage to this structure can cause permanent vision loss.
The Link Between Eye Pressure and Glaucoma Risk
When considering what constitutes a safe level of eye pressure, the answer is not simple or straight-forward. Eye pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). On average, normal eye pressure ranges from 10-21 mm Hg, and eye pressure of greater than 21 mm Hg is considered higher than normal. However, there is no specific level of eye pressure that will definitely lead to glaucoma, nor is there a lower level of pressure that will eliminate the risk.
Much of glaucoma research is centered on the optic nerve head, the area that is impacted by ocular pressure. Experts are unsure of how optic nerve stress is conveyed, but they do know that aging of the nerve head increases the risk for stress susceptibility. It is important to remember that the optic nerve, retina and brain are all part of the central nervous system, and that once central nervous system tissues are damaged, they are unable to heal.
Glaucoma Research: Catalyst for a Cure
However, there is hope through regenerative medicine. The goal of regenerative medicine is to restore connectivity between nerve cells. For glaucoma patients who have suffered optic nerve tissue damage, the objective would be to restore connectivity with the brain by facilitating the regrowth of damaged optic nerve fibers or cultivating new nerve fibers. Catalyst for a Cure (CFC) research suggests that increasing brain activity may help increase resistance to stress. This is known as a “window of structural persistence,” meaning that optic nerve fibers try to increase their electrical activity through natural self-repair.
The future of glaucoma treatment is exciting and hopeful, but there is still no cure for this disease. January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, so please spread the word about the importance of regular screening. Take a moment right now and take our Glaucoma Risk Assessment.
The best way to prevent glaucoma is through yearly comprehensive eye exams with dilation. During your eye exam, your ophthalmologist will evaluate your vision and your eye health. Dilation of the pupil and ophthalmoscopy is an important component of the exam and allows your doctor to view the optic nerve, retina and blood vessels. Make an appointment for an eye exam with dilation this month to prevent glaucoma and preserve your vision.