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Glaucoma is caused by a number of different eye diseases, which in most cases produce increased pressure within the eye. In an eye that has glaucoma, more fluid is produced than can be removed by the eye. With nowhere else to go, this fluid builds up in the front of the eye, causing an increase in pressure. Over time, this increase in pressure transfers to the rest of the eye.

The optic nerve, the weakest area of the eye, is most vulnerable to damage from this elevated pressure. Continuous elevated pressure, or spikes in pressure, can damage the optic nerve, which may result in vision loss and can also lead to blindness if left untreated.

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How Fluid Circulates in the Eye

To understand how glaucoma develops, we must first understand how fluid circulates within the eye. Fluid is produced inside of the eye by a structure known as the ciliary body. This structure is located just beneath the iris. The fluid then travels through the pupil and exits via the eye’s drainage system, called the trabecular meshwork.

In healthy eyes, there is a normal balance between the fluid that is made in the eye and the fluid that leaves the eye. Therefore, this fluid creates a relatively constant and healthy pressure within the eye. This pressure is needed to keep the eye inflated, nourished, and functioning properly. This is what we mean by the eye “pressure,” and your eye doctor measures it routinely.