Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve, which is the information transfer cable that connects your eye to the brain. It is often associated with high eye pressure, and currently, almost all forms of treatment involve lowering the eye pressure (either by medications, laser therapy, or operating room surgery). Currently, the goal of glaucoma treatment is to preserve the vision that still remains in the eye. Scientists have yet to figure out how to restore the vision that has been lost due to the disease. I am often asked the question, “Doctor, I’m taking the eye drops that you prescribed, so why isn’t my vision getting any better?” This is because the goal of eye drops, laser, and surgery treatments are to prevent you from losing more vision, not to make your vision better.
Why haven’t we figured out how to cure glaucoma? Here is the scope of the problem. The normal optic nerve is a bundled cable that contains approximately 1.2 million tiny nerve fibers. Each nerve fiber connects a cell in the eye to another cell in the brain. Scientists can grow these nerve fibers in the laboratory, but have not yet figured out how to wire 1.2 million of these nerve cells properly between the eye and the brain.
So the short answer to the question is: glaucoma currently cannot be cured, at least not yet. Therefore, the best way to prevent blindness from the disease is early detection, adherence to the treatment plan, and regular and continued follow up with your optometrist or ophthalmologist. Who should be screened for glaucoma? Everyone should have comprehensive eye exams at least once every 1-2 years. Your eye care professional can detect glaucoma much earlier than you would notice it on your own. In addition, those with strong family history of the disease, especially in first degree relatives (parents, siblings, children), should specifically be screened for glaucoma.