Glaucoma is not a disease by itself, but refers to a group of optic nerve diseases that can cause blindness. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. It is thought to affect one in 200 people 50 years old and younger, and one in ten people over the age of 80 years old. There are many different types of glaucoma, divided into several specific classifications, such as primary, developmental, secondary, and absolute. It can also be divided up into two major categories, closed-angle and open-angle.
Symptoms are not usually present, although when they are, they can range from decreasing peripheral vision, headache, halos around lights, pain around the eyeball, and nausea or vomiting. Glaucoma is diagnosed through optic nerve head appearance, visual field tests, and intraocular pressure. Since symptoms are not usually present, getting regular eye exams is crucial for glaucoma diagnosis.
If glaucoma is identified early on, it can be slowed or halted through medical eye drops, 5-HT2A agonists, and various surgical procedures. It has also been shown that marijuana is quite effective in treating glaucoma; it has been proven as effective as prescription medicines, but not more effective. There are also many natural compounds and foods that have been found helpful to treat or prevent glaucoma through various studies and research, including dark chocolate, green tea, Ginseng, resveratrol, salt, ginkgo, vitamin E, grape seed, and fish oil.
If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to untreatable damage to the visual field, and blindness. Unfortunately, the loss of sight happens gradually over time and is often times missed. By the time most people apply for disability benefits based on glaucoma, they have already lost a significant amount of peripheral vision, and some have lost their central vision as well. The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes that once central and/or peripheral vision decreases to a certain level, it becomes difficult to work. The SSA has set standards for how severe the vision loss must be in order to get disability benefits in its vision disability listings. For more information, see our article on disability standards for vision loss, which applies to all eye disease, including glaucoma, macular degeneration, and so on.