Glaucoma occurs when there is damage to the optic nerve, often due to pressure inside the eye. This pressure builds when the eye’s aqueous fluid cannot drain properly. Damage from the pressure causes loss of peripheral vision, and, eventually, blindness.


The World Health Organization reports that glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness globally. It is expected that 76 million people will have glaucoma by 2020. Of those affected, 11 million will be blind in both eyes.

Between 2013 and 2040, the number of people with glaucoma is expected to increase by 74 percent. This is primarily due to the aging of the global population, and increased life expectancy in Asia and Africa, regions disproportionately affected by glaucoma.


Glaucoma often runs in families, and frequently occurs in individuals over 60. In addition, glaucoma disproportionately affects people of Asian and African descent, accounting for 60 and 13 percent of all glaucoma cases, respectively.

Men are more likely than women to have primary open-angle glaucoma, the most common form of the disease in the U.S.


Ophthalmologists recommend the following strategies to reduce the risk of developing glaucoma:

  1. Exercise frequently and maintain a well-balanced diet
  2. Schedule regular eye exams in order to detect glaucoma before vision loss occurs
  3. Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding regular use of glaucoma eye drops to prevent intraocular pressure build-up


Glaucoma is especially challenging to treat in regions without access to regular eye care services. Traditionally, eye doctors prescribe medicated eye drops to lower intraocular pressure and prevent further vision loss. However, patients in underserved communities rarely have access to high-quality medicated drops, due to the expense and poor compliance.

Optic nerve damage is irreversible, so effective glaucoma treatment methods strive to prevent blindness, peripheral and bilateral, before it occurs. SEE International partners with the Glaukos Corporation to treat glaucoma and train doctors across the globe in the iStent microsurgical technique. During this minimally invasive procedure, ophthalmologists use a local anesthetic to insert a shunt, called the iStent Trabecular MicroBypass. This device facilitates aqueous fluid outflow to reduce intraocular pressure without the need for eye drops. More information on Glaukos and the iStent Trabecular MicroBypass device can be found here.


SEE works to prevent glaucoma around the world by:

  • Screening patients and their families for glaucoma and other eye diseases
  • Performing microinvasive glaucoma surgery
  • Training local eye care personnel in glaucoma screening and surgical techniques

More Resources

Rami, her two sisters, were treated for Glaucoma in Fiji

Interested in working with SEE to treat glaucoma in the developing world?

Together, SEE & Glaukos are changing lives in Fiji.


  • Our thoughts and sympathies go out to everyone who has been affected by the Southern California wildfires. While our office is closed today due to bad air quality, we are working remotely to ensure the eye care needs of our community are met. Next week our Santa Barbara Vision Care Program will begin providing free eye exams and glasses for anyone affected by the fire. We are also working with our partners to get eye drops donated to relieve any eye irritation you may be experiencing. Once we receive the shipments we will let you know where you can pick them up. Beyond that, here are a few tips from the American Optometric Association (AOA): 1. Stay indoors, if possible. Limit outdoor exposure, where smoke can affect ey.s Make sure your car and home air conditioners are set to recirculate, so outside air isn’t drawn inward. 2. To relieve pain consider using artificial tears or cold compresses. 3. Ask your optometrist/ophthalmologist about a more aggressive option, if necessary. 4. Practice good hygiene. Contact lens patients may begin suffering discomfort or even slight inflammation, when there is smoke in the air. Make sure you are cleaning your contact lenses regularly!

    December 08


Print Friendly, PDF & Email