Types of Glaucoma
Chances are that you have heard of glaucoma and know that it is a potentially serious problem that could affect your eyes and your long-term vision. However, many people are unaware that there are actually several varieties of glaucoma, and each type is slightly different. To help you understand more, we have comprised a list of the different types of glaucoma.
Open-angle glaucoma is by far the most common type of glaucoma in the U.S. affecting as many as 9 out of every 10 patients diagnosed with the condition. Open-angle glaucoma develops slowly, usually over a period of months or years.
The majority of patients don’t develop any symptoms and it is only when their vision starts to be impaired that they realize that they are affected. Since glaucoma affects peripheral vision first, early vision loss from glaucoma isn’t always detected.
Open-angle glaucoma tends to be caused by a gradual increase in a person’s intraocular pressure. This is the pressure inside the eye, and this often increases when the fluid that is naturally found in the eye can’t drain quickly enough.
The higher your intraocular pressure, the more pressure is placed on the optic nerve at the back of the eye, preventing it from transmitting messages from the eye to the brain as efficiently. Eventually, the pressure on the optic nerve can become so significant that it causes damage to the optic nerve which affects your vision. Without treatment, you could suffer from irreversible vision loss.
Glaucoma testing forms an important part of most comprehensive eye exams as early detection and treatment can prevent it from impacting your long-term vision.
Closed-angle glaucoma is quite rare, and it is considered a medical emergency. It occurs when the pressure in the eyes rises rapidly without warning. Instead of taking months or years to experience symptoms, patients will start to notice signs of the problem within a few hours which can include:
- Intense eye pain
- Nausea (may be accompanied by vomiting)
- Red eyes
- Blurred vision
If you experience these symptoms you must see an eye doctor immediately as you need urgent treatment to reduce the pressure in your eyes before you suffer from permanent vision loss.
Not everyone with glaucoma will experience an increase in eye pressure. This is known as normal-tension glaucoma and is more prevalent in certain demographics of people, including people who:
- have low blood pressure
- have a family history of normal-tension glaucoma
- suffer from certain heart problems such as an irregular heartbeat
- have Japanese ancestry
Again, normal-tension glaucoma usually develops very slowly and can be detected at routine comprehensive eye exams.
Congenital glaucoma is also fairly rare, affecting around 1 in every 10,000 babies born. These babies are born with a defect that prevents the fluid in their eyes from draining normally. Instead, it builds up inside and causes their intraocular pressure to rise. Eye doctors typically detect congenital glaucoma shortly after birth as it creates visible, physical changes. Babies born with congenital glaucoma often have cloudy, oversized eyes and are sensitive to light.
Glaucoma can also develop as a result of having another medical condition. This is known as secondary glaucoma and there is a range of different issues that can cause it, including but not limited to:
- High blood pressure
- Pigment dispersion syndrome
- Exfoliation syndrome
Our eye doctor will be able to advise you if you are likely to be at greater risk of developing secondary glaucoma.
Fortunately, all types of glaucoma can be successfully treated if they are detected early enough. Regular routine comprehensive eye exams will assess your risk of glaucoma, so it’s essential that you attend these appointments as scheduled.
If you want to know more about the types of glaucoma, call Progressive Ophthalmology today at 718-565-2020.