What Are the Types of Glaucoma?

a close up of a female having her eyes examined

January is Glaucoma Awareness month, a time of year where we take a close look at the condition and focus on sharing information to help patients maintain their eye health. While we covered the basics in a recent article – Understanding Glaucoma – we wanted to seize this opportunity to take a deeper dive into the topic.  

Glaucoma is often thought of as a single eye condition. However, there is more than one type of glaucoma, each with its own unique characteristics.  

If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, it’s wise to explore more about your specific variant. That way, you won’t just know more about how the condition is impacting your eye health, but also how the treatment options and outcomes can differ.  

Here’s a look at each of the types of glaucoma, including their characteristics, treatment options, and more.  

Open-Angle Glaucoma  

Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of the condition. With open-angle glaucoma, the angle between the cornea and the iris is wide and open, essentially the way it is meant to be. Issues arise when the drainage canals become blocked, preventing proper fluid flow and leading to fluid accumulation.  

As the fluid builds up, the pressure increases. That pressure ultimately causes damage to the optic nerve, disrupting vision signals between the eye and the brain.  

Many people with open-angle glaucoma are initially unaware they have the condition. The fluid buildup usually happens slowly over time and doesn’t typically result in physical discomfort. Typically, people with open-angle glaucoma only become aware once they begin experiencing vision loss unless it is caught earlier during a standard eye exam.  

Open-angle glaucoma can lead to significant vision loss, up to blindness. With proper treatment, damage can be mitigated or slowed, potentially preserving your vision. However, there is no cure for any form of glaucoma, including open-angle.  

Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma  

Angle-closure glaucoma is also the result of fluid buildup. However, fluid flow is disrupted due to the narrowing of the entrance points of the drainage canals. At times, those openings are simply too small to allow for proper fluid flow. However, they can also be shut entirely, either by design or due to clogging.  

With angle-closure glaucoma, symptoms typically appear quickly. Along with vision loss, eye pain, headaches, and nausea commonly occur. There may also be eye redness as well as a halo effect around lights.   

Angle-closure glaucoma causes vision loss and may lead to blindness. It is also considered a medical emergency. As with open-angle glaucoma, there isn’t a cure. Though, with quick treatment, it’s possible to reduce the harmful effects of the condition.  

Normal-Tension Glaucoma  

With normal-tension glaucoma, pressure isn’t the issue, though optic nerve damage still occurs, resulting in vision changes or loss. In some cases, trauma may be to blame. In others, it could be heightened optic nerve sensitivity, blood flow issues, or circulation impairments.  

Normal-tension glaucoma, like the other versions, also can’t be cured. However, it can be managed, especially if caught early.  

At ECVA, our staff works tirelessly to care for the eye health of our patients. If you haven’t had your eyes checked recently or are experiencing symptoms of glaucoma, schedule an appointment at your closest ECVA clinic today.  

Understanding Glaucoma

Glaucoma is an eye condition that can rob a person of their sight. It is the second-leading cause of blindness in the world, and about 3 million Americans suffer from it.  

While African Americans are most at risk of developing glaucoma, with about six percent having it by age 69, anyone could have it. The occurrence rate increases dramatically with age, ultimately impacting every demographic.  

If you would like to learn more about glaucoma, here’s what you need to know.  

What Is Glaucoma?  

There are several kinds of glaucoma. The most common version is open-angle glaucoma, where fluid doesn’t pass properly through various portions of the eye. This leads to a pressure increase, which, over time, damages the optic nerve.  

With open-angle glaucoma, the process can be slow, but there are no early warning signs. About 50 percent of those with the condition don’t realize they have it until they begin to lose their vision. However, it is possible to catch it early with regular screenings and proper eye care.  

With closed-angle glaucoma, the situation develops more quickly. The iris shifts, blocking the drain angle and leading to rapid fluid buildup. Vision gets blurry suddenly, and severe eye pain, headaches, nausea, and vomiting can all occur. Additionally, halos or rainbow-colored rings may be visible around light sources.  

Closed-angle glaucoma requires immediate treatment. Otherwise, blindness can occur quickly.  

What Are Risk Factors for Glaucoma?  

Generally, those with the highest risk of developing glaucoma are African Americans over 40 years of age, anyone who is over 60 years of age, anyone with a family history of glaucoma, and individuals with diabetes. Overall, African Americans are up to eight times more likely to develop glaucoma, while people with diabetes are twice as likely as those without diabetes.  

Anyone suffering from heart disease or high blood pressure may also be at increased risk. Similarly, certain eye conditions, like retinal detachments or tumors, may lead to glaucoma. Severe trauma can cause alter eye structures, potentially causing glaucoma to develop, as well.  

Certain medications may also increase the chance of getting glaucoma. For example, prolonged corticosteroid use can cause someone to get secondary glaucoma as a side effect.  

Getting Screened for Glaucoma  

Open-angle glaucoma is a progressive condition. By getting your eyes checked regularly by an ophthalmologist or optometrist, they can look for signs of the disease before significant damage occurs.  

Along with gathering a patient history, they can perform visual acuity tests, use tonometry and pachymetry to measure eye pressure and corneal thickness, respectively, and conduct scans or the optic nerve to look for damage. If they determine you have glaucoma, they can take action to preserve your vision, including prescribing medications or performing surgery, depending on how your condition presents.  

While there is no cure for glaucoma, it can be managed. By catching it early, your chances of retaining your visual acuity go up dramatically. If you haven’t been screened for glaucoma recently or are experiencing any changes in visual acuity, it’s best to see your eye doctor as soon as possible.  

We’re Helping You See More Clearly 

Our team works diligently to care for our patients’ eyes, including screening for and treating glaucoma. If you want to ensure your eyes are as healthy as possible, schedule an appointment at your closest ECVA clinic.