The word glaucoma describes a group of progressive eye diseases that gradually damages the optic nerve. It is one of the most common causes of blindness, and it is particularly common in people over 60 years old.
Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of this condition. It is caused by abnormally high inner eye pressure, which is also known as intraocular pressure, or IOP. The eye produces a clear liquid called the aqueous humor that circulate in the front part of the eye. Some of the liquid also drains out of the eye through special canals.
Under normal conditions, the liquid draining out is equal to the amount being produced. In glaucoma, the canals get blocked, so the aqueous humor can’t drain out. Meanwhile, the eye is still producing aqueous humor, which builds up within the eye and eventually damages the optic nerve. Most people with primary open-angle glaucoma have no symptoms and thus don’t know they have it. The condition runs in families and is particularly common in Latinos and African Americans.
Angle-closure glaucoma, which is also known as narrow-angle or acute, is a relatively rare form. It is also caused by blockages in the drainage canals, but the blockages develop much more quickly. This form of the condition also affects the iris, so it isn’t as open and wide as a normal iris. Symptoms of narrow-angle glaucoma include very blurred vision, pain in the eyes, headache, nausea and rainbows around lights at night.
Normal-tension glaucoma, which is also called low-tension or normal-pressure, occurs in people who do not have blocked drainage canals or the resulting high IOP. Instead, their IOP is normal or nearly so. Researchers have yet to determine a cause for this type of glaucoma. They do know that it runs in families, occurs in people with some forms of heart disease and is most common in people of Japanese descent.
Congenital glaucoma is diagnosed in infancy or early childhood. It is generally caused by a birth defect and can run in families. Symptoms include unusually large eyes, abnormal sensitivity to light, cloudy eyes and excessive tearing. Most cases are diagnosed before the child’s first birthday.
Secondary glaucoma develops when another disease causes or exacerbates an abnormally high IOP. It can be either open-angle or narrow-angle. Common causes of this type include eye injury or infection, tumor or severe cataracts or diabetes. It can also be caused by some drugs, such as steroids.
Traumatic glaucoma is caused by an injury to the eye. It can develop immediately after the injury or several years later. It can be caused by an object penetrating the eye or by a blunt object that bruises the eye. Blunt trauma, like being hit over the head or directly in the eye, is the most common cause of traumatic glaucoma that develops immediately. Sports-related injuries, like those associated with boxing or baseball, are the most common cause of blunt trauma that results in glaucoma.
Located in Wilmington, Live Oak Ophthalmology has multiple treatment options available for patients with glaucoma, ranging from pressure-lowering eye drops to laser treatment. Contact our office today to schedule your appointment to learn more about our treatment options.