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What is glaucoma?


Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve (the “cable” of the eye that transmits to the brain the information about what we see) in which there is slow, progressive loss of its fibres. In most cases (over 70%), it is associated with high pressure of the eye, even though up to 30% of patients may display normal pressure at the time of diagnosis. If left untreated, it can have an irreversible effect on eyesight and lead to blindness.

Unfortunately, the most common type of glaucoma has no symptoms. This is because the effect on eyesight is usually slow, involving the side area (as if we were looking out of the corner of our eye). In addition, the brain fills “vision holes” with information from around them or from the other eye, making objects/people in the affected area “disappear”. This causes patients with glaucoma to display a higher tendency to suffer accidents or falls. In advanced cases, patients can experience the feeling of tunnel vision.

Nervio óptico

The optic nerve (blue arrow) is responsible for sending information about the images we see to the brain. This is where we encounter the damage caused by glaucoma. (Images courtesy of the course of glaucoma for patients created by the European Glaucoma Panel – I know Glaucoma)



Current treatments enable us to halt or delay the progression of the disease but we remain unable to “regenerate” that part of sight that has already been lost. For this reason, early detection for this disease is the best form of prevention.

Glaucoma in figures:

  • Glaucoma is the primary cause of irreversible sight loss in the world.
  • It is estimated that there are 60 million people affected by glaucoma throughout the world (2010 figures).
  • The forecast for the next 10 years is a 30% increase in the numbers affected.
  • In Spain, glaucoma affects 2% of the over-40s. Overall, the disease affects approximately a million people in the country.



  1. World Health Organization
  2. European Glaucoma Society Guidelines 2013
  3. Informe del día Mundial de la visión 2013: Hacia la Salud Ocular Universal. International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness.
  4. I know Glaucoma. European Glaucoma Panel Group Online Course for patients.


Dr. Marta Pazos

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Last modified: 2 July, 2020 - 11:57