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Glaucoma is a condition that usually affects patients over the age of 60 and leads to low vision or vision loss in one or both eyes. Increasing eye pressure is the primary factor for glaucoma, as the pressure can cause permanent damage to the optic nerve.

Usually, glaucoma has no warning signs, and the vision changes it causes happen so gradually that patients do not realize its development until it’s too late.

There are two main types of glaucoma with variations among each: open-angle glaucoma and acute angle-closure glaucoma.

Open-Angle Glaucoma

Glaucoma patients are most likely to develop open-angle glaucoma since it is the most common form of this disease. In fact, 90% of glaucoma patients (roughly 3 million Americans) suffer from this form.

Causes

Open-angle glaucoma is caused by fluid buildup. When the drainage canals become clogged, fluid builds up in the eye, creating gradual vision loss. The progression is slow but highly damaging to the optic nerve and function of the eye.

Symptoms

The symptoms of open-angle glaucoma include:

  • Patches of vision loss in the peripheral or central vision, typically happening in both eyes
  • Fuller vision loss, resulting in tunnel vision as it progresses

Treatment

If caught early, your doctor can intercept the development of open-angle glaucoma and slow vision loss through medication treatment. It can even be prevented if caught soon enough. Treatment is life-long but effective if enacted early.

Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma

Acute angle-closure glaucoma is a rare form of this disease and affects roughly 1 in 1000 people. The difference between this and open-angle glaucoma is that the eye pressure increases rapidly in acute angle-closure glaucoma, leading to damage within hours.

Causes

Acute angle-closure glaucoma happens when the drainage canals are entirely blocked, preventing any amount of fluid from passing through. This total blockage tends to occur in patients with narrow drainage systems and whose eyes dilate too quickly.

Rapid dilation can happen by:

  • Receiving dilation drops
  • Entering a dark room or area
  • Becoming excited or stressed
  • Taking certain medication

Symptoms

Those with acute angle-closure glaucoma often experience rapid symptoms like:

  • Eye pain
  • Painful headache
  • Blurry vision
  • Nausea
  • Redness in the whites of the eyes
  • Vision loss

Treatment

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience acute angle-closure glaucoma. The faster you’re treated, the higher your chances are of saving your vision from permanent damage or loss. Your doctor will initially work to lower the pressure in your eye(s), then they will likely create a small hole in the iris to help encourage fluid movement again.

Although damage from either type of glaucoma is permanent, the ophthalmologists at Eye Associates can perform an eye exam and help you catch this disease early in its development and slow (or even stop) its progression. Schedule your eye exam with us today: 478-923-5872

Thank you for checking out part 3 of our 5-part blog series on Low Vision. Stay tuned for next month’s blog, and check out any of the ones you might have missed: