¿Me quedaré ciego?

Una de las preguntas más frecuentes que nos hacen los pacientes con glaucoma es “¿Me quedaré ciego?”.

One of the most common questions glaucoma patients ask us is “Will I go blind?”

Glaucoma is in fact a disease that can potentially cause blindness. Worldwide, it is the second most common cause of irreversible blindness. However, with early diagnosis and modern treatment, blindness is very rare.

What does blindness mean?

Blindness means different things to different people. For the average person, blindness means the absence of all vision. However, the  U.S.  government defines blindness as a severe loss of vision that limits mobility and other activities. The official definition is visual acuity in the better eye that cannot be corrected with lenses greater than 20/200 or loss of peripheral vision of 20 degrees or less. While blindness in its “legal” definition certainly restricts visual ability, it is far from the total darkness that most people imagine.

What are the real chances of a glaucoma patient achieving “legal” blindness?

Overall, based on the best data from the world’s developed countries, the risk of reaching that level of vision loss with a diagnosis of glaucoma is approximately 5%. In many of these people, vision loss is exacerbated by the added presence of other eye conditions, such as macular degeneration.

Each person’s actual risk will depend on how advanced the glaucoma is when it is first diagnosed. The more advanced the glaucoma, the greater the risk. Therefore, it is essential to have regular eye exams before symptoms appear, so that if glaucoma develops, it is detected early, when treatment is most effective in preventing vision loss. Of course, regular monitoring and compliance with the indicated treatment are also essential to slow or stop the progression.

New and improved treatments should make severe vision loss even less likely. While some eyes appear to be resistant to all treatment modalities, for the vast majority of glaucoma patients, compliance with treatment and appropriate follow-up will prevent them from becoming blind by any definition.


Robert L. Stamper, MD

Robert L. Stamper, MD

Robert L. Stamper, MD is a Distinguished Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology and Director Emeritus of the Glaucoma Service at University of California, San Francisco.