Several diseases lead to the condition known as glaucoma, which is a build-up of pressure within the eye that damages the optic nerve. This damage causes eventual blindness.
There is no cure for glaucoma. With early detection, it is possible to slow and even stop the onset of eventual blindness.
There are four main types of glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common.
- Open-angle glaucoma – causes a slow buildup of pressure that can cause blind spots and lead to optic nerve damage. Often runs in families.
- Closed-angle glaucoma – causes a sudden increase in eye pressure. This can be caused by medications and should be considered an emergency.
- Secondary glaucoma – can cause open or closed-angle glaucoma. This is a result of a known factor, such as medication, disease, or injury.
- Congenital glaucoma – this type is found in infants. It often runs in families and is a result of improper eye development.
Several diseases and conditions cause glaucoma. All of them result in a buildup of pressure in the fluid in the eyeball. This fluid is known as aqueous humor.
At the moment doctors do not fully understand how the pressure correlates to the damage to the optic nerve. Whether the cause is excess fluid or improper drainage, the result appears to be the same.
Doctors do know that pressure can be caused by illness, medication, and genetics.
There are two main sets of glaucoma symptoms that appear based on the type of glaucoma present.
With open-angle glaucoma, the symptoms come on very slowly. They tend to be a slow loss of peripheral vision or gradual blind spots.
Closed-angle glaucoma presents with rapid symptoms. They are:
- Eye pain
- Eye pressure
- Red eyes
- Rainbow halos
- Tunnel vision
- Blind spots
- Blurred vision
There are two main treatments for glaucoma: medication, and surgery.
Under surgical treatment, there are options for laser surgery or conventional surgery.
With laser surgery, the options are dictated by the kind of glaucoma a patient is experiencing.
For open-angle glaucoma, a patient can elect to have trabeculoplasty. This procedure widens the natural drainage of the eye to prevent pressure buildup.
Iridotomy is used with closed-angle glaucoma and uses a laser to create a new hole in the iris where fluid can drain.
Trabeculectomy is a surgery where a flap is cut in the eye to allow excess pressure to be released.
Glaucoma drainage devices can be implanted in the eye and allow the fluids to drain into the tissue below the eye.
Cataract surgery is the last option and with this, a surgeon removes the lens from the eye. This allows more space for the aqueous humor to flow freely.
Beyond surgery, eye drops and pills constitute the available glaucoma medication. There are a variety of options with eye drops, but the desired result is the lowering of the pressure in the eye fluid.