Glaucoma is usually, but not always, the result of abnormally high pressure inside your eye. Over time, the increased pressure can erode your optic nerve tissue, which may lead to vision loss or even blindness. If it’s caught early, you may be able to prevent additional vision loss.
What causes the pressure in your eye to increase isn’t always known. However, doctors believe one or more of these factors may play a role:
- dilating eye drops
- blocked or restricted drainage in your eye
- medications, such as corticosteroids
- poor or reduced blood flow to your optic nerve
- high or elevated blood pressure
The most common type of glaucoma is primary open-angle glaucoma. It has no signs or symptoms except gradual vision loss. For that reason, it’s important that you go to yearly comprehensive eye exams so your ophthalmologist, or eye specialist, can monitor any changes in your vision.
Acute-angle closure glaucoma, which is also known as narrow-angle glaucoma, is a medical emergency. See your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- severe eye pain
- redness in your eye
- sudden vision disturbances
- seeing colored rings around lights
- sudden blurred vision
Types of Glaucoma
These are the 5 Major Types of Glaucoma
1. Open-Angle (Chronic) Glaucoma
Open-angle, or chronic, glaucoma has no signs or symptoms except gradual vision loss. This loss may be so slow that your vision can suffer irreparable damage before any other signs become apparent. According the National Eye Institute (NEI), this is the most common type of glaucoma.
2. Angle-Closure (Acute) Glaucoma
If the flow of your aqueous humor fluid is suddenly blocked, the rapid buildup of fluid may cause a severe, quick, and painful increase in pressure. Angle-closure glaucoma is an emergency situation. You should call your doctor immediately if you begin experiencing symptoms, such as severe pain, nausea, and blurred vision.
3. Congenital Glaucoma
Children born with congenital glaucoma have a defect in the angle of their eye, which slows or prevents normal fluid drainage. Congenital glaucoma usually presents with symptoms, such as cloudy eyes, excessive tearing, or sensitivity to light. Congenital glaucoma can run in families.
4. Secondary Glaucoma
Secondary glaucoma is often a side effect of injury or another eye condition, such as cataracts or eye tumors. Medicines, such as corticosteroids, may also cause this type of glaucoma. Rarely, eye surgery can cause secondary glaucoma.
5. Normal Tension Glaucoma
In some cases, people without increased eye pressure develop damage to their optic nerve. The cause of this isn’t known. However, extreme sensitivity or a lack of blood flow to your optic nerve may be a factor in this type of glaucoma.
People over 60 are at increased risk of glaucoma, warns the NEI, and the risk of glaucoma increases slightly with each year of age. If you’re African-American, your increase in risk begins at age 40.
African-Americans or people of African descent are significantly more likely to develop glaucoma than Caucasians. People of Asian descent are at a higher risk of angle-closure glaucoma, and people of Japanese descent have a higher risk of developing low-tension glaucoma.
3. Eye Problems
Chronic eye inflammation and thin corneas can lead to increased pressure in your eyes. Physical injury or trauma to your eye, such as being hit in your eye, can also cause your eye pressure to increase.
4. Family History
Some types of glaucoma may run in families. If your parent or grandparent had open-angle glaucoma, you’re at an increased risk of developing the condition.
5. Medical History
People with diabetes and those with high blood pressure and heart disease have an increased risk of developing glaucoma.
6. Use of Certain Medicine
Using corticosteroids for extended periods may increase your risk of developing secondary glaucoma.
Several medicines designed to reduce IOP are available. These medicines are available in the form of eye drops or pills, but the drops are more common. Your doctor may prescribe one or a combination of these.
If a blocked or slow channel is causing increased IOP, your doctor may suggest surgery to make a drainage path for fluid or destroy tissues that are responsible for the increased fluid.
Treatment for angle-closure glaucoma is different. This type of glaucoma is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment to reduce eye pressure as quickly as possible. Medicines are usually attempted first, to reverse the angle closure, but this may be unsuccessful. A laser procedure called laser peripheral iridotomy may also be performed. This procedure creates small holes in your iris to allow for increased fluid movement.