Glaucoma refers to a category of eye disorders often associated with a dangerous buildup of internal eye pressure (intraocular pressure or IOP), which can damage the eye's optic nerve that transmits visual information to the brain.
If untreated or uncontrolled, glaucoma first causes peripheral vision loss and eventually can lead to blindness.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), the most common type of glaucoma — called primary open-angle glaucoma — affects an estimated 2.2 million people in the United States, and that number is expected to increase to 3.3 million by 2020 as the U.S. population ages.
Also, open-angle glaucoma is three times more likely to affect African-Americans, compared with non-Hispanic whites in the United States, and blindness from glaucoma is at least six times more prevalent among African-Americans than non-Hispanic whites. Studies also suggest open-angle glaucoma affects Hispanics and Latinos at comparable rates to African-Americans.
Globally, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness (behind cataracts), according to the World Health Organization.