Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve and causes vision loss. Many people have heard of glaucoma – especially because many celebrities like Bono, Whoopi Goldberg, and Andrea Bocelli are known to have it. What many people don’t know, however, is that there are several types of glaucoma. The two main types of glaucoma – primary open-angle and acute angle-closure – are the two most often spoken about. However, we feel it’s important for our patients to understand the many different types of glaucoma.
How Glaucoma Happens – The Basics
Inside of your eye, there is an area called the anterior chamber located in front of the iris, inside of the cornea (the clear surface on the front of your eye). Fluid cycles through this chamber and drains through the drainage canals also located in the anterior chamber. The most common cause of most types of glaucoma is a build up of this fluid in the anterior chamber, which raises pressure in the eye. As eye pressure rises (either slowly or quickly), permanent damage to the optic nerve occurs. This results in vision loss.
Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma
This type of glaucoma is by far the most common. In fact, primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common cause of irreversible blindness in the world. This type of glaucoma is progressive, meaning it gets worse over time. Primary open-angle glaucoma occurs when pressure inside of the eye is higher than normal, but there is no apparent obstruction causing fluid build-up. This means that primary open-angle glaucoma can occur in the eye with no apparent signs other than a rise in eye pressure. This type of glaucoma is typically only diagnosed at a routine eye examination.
Primary open-angle glaucoma is typically treated using medicated eye drops and other treatment methods aimed at lowering eye pressure. Surgical treatments are also available when medications don’t lower eye pressure sufficiently. Vision loss from primary open-angle glaucoma is avoidable as long as the condition is diagnosed early and treated promptly.
Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma
Acute angle-closure glaucoma is the less common of the two main types of glaucoma. This condition occurs when the fluid in the eye is unable to drain as drainage ducts become blocked. This causes a sudden spike in eye pressure, and is typically accompanied by symptoms like nausea, vomiting, headache, eye pain and light sensitivity. If you are experiencing these symptoms, you should seek medical treatment immediately. Acute angle-closure glaucoma can cause rapid vision loss if not treated immediately.
As the name suggests, this type of glaucoma occurs in people who have fairly normal levels of eye pressure. It is still relatively unknown why this condition occurs, but it can cause vision loss just like other types of glaucoma. It is important to receive regular eye examinations to stay ahead of optic nerve damage.
Congenital glaucoma occurs in infants. It is caused when the drainage ducts do not develop fully during the prenatal period. This condition can be treated with microsurgery to create drainage ducts and allow fluid to cycle normally.
Other Types of Glaucoma
There are many variants of open-angle and angle-closure glaucoma, including:
- Secondary Glaucoma. Secondary glaucoma can be either open-angle or angle-closure. The difference is that secondary glaucoma is caused by an injury, infection or previous eye surgery.
- Pigmentary Glaucoma. The iris gets its color from pigment granules. In people with pigmentary glaucoma, the granules can break off into the eye and clog the drainage canals of the eye. This causes a rise in eye pressure.
- Exfoliative Glaucoma. Similar to pigmentary glaucoma, exfoliative glaucoma occurs when a flaky substance on the back of the eye’s lens breaks off and clogs the eye’s drainage ducts.
- Traumatic Glaucoma. This type of glaucoma can occur immediately after an injury or years later. Open-angle glaucoma can be caused by blunt trauma or penetrating the eye.
If you are curious about the different types of glaucoma and how they can affect your life and vision, visit Pinke Eye Center. Our glaucoma experts are here to help you every step of the way, from diagnosis to management to treatment. To schedule your eye examination with Dr. Pinke, call our Shelton, CT location or contact us online!