The term Glaucoma actually refers to a group of eye conditions that lead to intraocular pressure (IOP) and damage the optic nerve, the nerve that carries visual information from the eye to the brain. This pressure comes from a buildup of normal fluid called the aqueous humor, which is naturally and continuously produced in the front of your eye.
The different types of glaucoma include:
- Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma: Affecting around one percent of all Americans (mainly those individuals age 50 or older), it is the most common form of glaucoma. And because this form of glaucoma develops slowly, it rarely ever presents any symptoms and often goes undetected without regular screenings.
- Normal Tension Glaucoma: Also known as Low-Tension Glaucoma, this form is characterized by progressive optic nerve damage and visual field loss with a statistically normal IOP. The lack of blood flow and the decrease in oxygen to the optic nerve is directly related to this form of glaucoma.
- Angle-Closure Glaucoma: This form of glaucoma is related to narrow angles. And with several subcategories – including Intermittent and chronic Acute Angle-Closure or Narrow Angle-Closure – this form affects nearly 500,000 Americans, but is most common in people of Asian descent or those individuals with farsightedness (hyperopia). Unlike POAG where the IOP increases gradually, Angle-Closure Glaucoma is characterized by a sudden increase in IOP, often in only a matter of hours. This dramatic increase in IOP can cause severe eye pain, nausea, vomiting, blurry vision and headache. An acute attack is an emergency condition. Long-term effects of Angle-Closure Glaucoma include: scarring of the trabecular meshwork, resulting in chronic glaucoma; cataracts; damage to the optic nerve; permanent vision loss.
- Pigmentary Glaucoma: This form is a type of inherited open-angle glaucoma, which develops more frequently in men than in women and is most prevalent in individuals in their twenties and thirties. Pigmentary Glaucoma is associated with near-sightedness (myopia).
- Trauma-Related Glaucoma: A blow to the eye, chemical burn, or penetrating injury may lead to the development of either acute or chronic glaucoma.
- Childhood Glaucoma: Also referred to as Pediatric Glaucoma, the approach to treatment is slightly different than with glaucoma in adults and almost always requires immediate surgery to relieve IOP. Approximately 80-90 percent of babies who receive prompt surgical treatment, long-term care, and monitoring of their visual development will do well, and may have normal or nearly normal vision for their lifetime. However, if the disease is not caught early more permanent vision loss will result.
The most common symptoms of glaucoma include:
- Vision loss (most commonly tunnel vision – the gradual loss of peripheral or side vision)
- Severe eye pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sudden onset of visual disturbance
- Blurred or blurry vision
- Halos around lights
- Reddening of the eye
If you feel you may be experiencing any of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor immediately. These symptoms are serious and require prompt medical attention from your optometrist or ophthalmologist.
However, many people do not experience any symptoms until they begin to lose their vision. At this point, the damage is irreversible. This is why regular eye exams are so important. While there is no cure for glaucoma, early detection and treatment are your best options to slow or even prevent further vision loss brought on by the disease. Without treatment, glaucoma can lead to permanent vision loss.
Glaucoma is the second-leading cause of vision loss in the United States behind only cataracts.
If you have any questions about what you have just read, please contact board certified ophthalmologist Samuel Boles and the eye care specialists at Anne Arundel Eye Center by calling 410-224-2010 or click here to visit AnneArundelEyeCenter.com today!
For more eye care advice and information, please take a look at our previous blog posts.
Types of Glaucoma GlaucomaFoundation.org