Glaucoma

Glaucoma

What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve. The optic nerve is part of the eye that carries the images we see from the eye to the brain. The optic nerve is made up of many nerve fibers (like an electric cable containing numerous wires). Glaucoma damages nerve fibers, which can cause blind spots in our vision and vision loss to develop. When the clear liquid called the aqueous humor –which normally flows in and out of the eye- cannot drain properly, pressure builds up in the eye. The resulting increase in intraocular pressure (IOP) can damage the optic nerve – thus causing glaucoma.
Eye Anatomy

Eye Anatomy

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Are there different kinds of glaucoma?
Yes. There are many different kinds of glaucoma including:

  • Primary open-angle glaucoma- This is the most common type of glaucoma. In open-angle glaucoma, the aqueous fluid that normally circulates in the front portion of the eye is blocked from flowing out of the eye through a drainage system. This causes the pressure inside the eye to increase, which can damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss. Most people who develop primary open-angle glaucoma notice no symptoms until their vision is impaired.
  • Angle-closure glaucoma- In angle-closure glaucoma, the iris (the colored part of the eye) may occlude the drainage “angle”, abruptly blocking the flow of aqueous fluid and leading to increased IOP or optic nerve damage. In acute angle-closure glaucoma there is a sudden increase in IOP due to the buildup of aqueous fluid. This condition is considered an emergency because optic nerve damage and vision loss can occur within hours of the problem. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, seeing haloes around light, and eye pain.
  • Normal tension glaucoma- Even people with “normal” IOP can experience vision loss from glaucoma. This condition is called normal tension glaucoma. In this type of glaucoma, the optic nerve is damaged even though the IOP is considered normal. Normal tension glaucoma is not well understood, but we do know that lowering IOP has been shown to slow progression of this form of glaucoma.
  • Childhood glaucoma- This kind of glaucoma is rare, and starts in infancy, childhood, or adolescence. Like primary open-angle glaucoma, there are few, if any, symptoms in the early stage. Blindness can result if it is left untreated. Like most types of glaucoma, this type of glaucoma may run in families.

Effects of Glaucoma

Effects of Glaucoma


Stages of Glaucoma

Stages of Glaucoma

Who is at risk for glaucoma?

Anyone can get glaucoma. You may be at greater risk if you have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • Elevated  intraocular pressure;
  • Family history of glaucoma;
  • African American;
  • Advanced age;
  • Certain optic nerve conditions.
How can you treat glaucoma?

Glaucoma can be treated with eye drops, laser surgery, traditional surgery or a combination of these methods.

  • Eye drops- These are typically the first step in treatment. These drugs work to lower the pressure inside the eye by lowering the amount of aqueous fluid produced and/or improve fluid drainage in the eye. Often people with glaucoma must take these for life to control the pressure and limit vision loss.
  • Laser surgery- When medications do not achieve the desired results, or have intolerable side effects, your ophthalmologist may suggest surgery. Laser surgery has become increasingly popular as an intermediate step between drugs and traditional surgery.
  • Traditional surgery- When medications and laser therapies do not adequately lower eye pressure, your doctor may recommend conventional surgery. Your treatment is up to you and your doctor.

Because many people who develop glaucoma do not notice any symptoms, regular examinations with your ophthalmologist are important if you are at risk for this condition.