What is glaucoma?

What is Glaucoma?

If you’ve spent any time on our site, you may have seen the word “glaucoma” and wondered what exactly that entails. 

Glaucoma is an eye disease that damages your eye’s optic nerve. Pressure caused by a build-up of fluid in the front of the eye squeezes the optic nerve, damaging it.

As people age, the danger of glaucoma increases. People over 60 are at the biggest risk, with glaucoma being the leading cause of blindness in that age range.

Two Types of Glaucoma

Although there are several types of glaucoma, there are two types that are the most common: primary open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma.

Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma

The most common type of glaucoma, primary open-angle happens gradually. The eye doesn’t drain fluid correctly and the pressure begins to build. This pressure damages the optic nerve slowly, there is no pain and there are no changes in the vision, at first.

It is important that you have regular eye exams to find signs of optic nerve damage before there are noticeable problems. Some people have nerves that are susceptible to normal eye pressure. Only an experienced eye doctor can determine if there is a problem.

Angle-Closure Glaucoma

There are other names for this including “closed-angle” and “narrow-angle”.  This type of glaucoma occurs when the iris is close to the drainage angle of the eye. If the iris is too close, it can block the drainage route. If the iris blocks off the drain, the pressure can build quickly causing an acute attack. This is very serious and you should seek medical attention from an ophthalmologist as soon as possible. This type of glaucoma can develop slowly, with no symptoms until an attack occurs or damage happens to the ocular nerve. 

The signs of an acute angle-closure glaucoma attack include sudden blurry vision, rainbow-colored rings, severe eye pain, nausea and vomiting, and a headache. Angle-closure glaucoma can cause blindness if not addressed right away. 

Eye Exams are Important

Because the effects of glaucoma may not be noticed until it is too late to reverse the damage, it is important to have regular eye exams. Your eye doctor can monitor your eyes and determine if there is a need for medication or treatment. 

Below is a short video from the American Academy of Ophthalmology about glaucoma.

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