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What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an eye disease that many people have heard of, but may not completely understand exactly what it is. Being one of the leading causes of blindness in the world, glaucoma is a fairly common eye condition that occurs when the optic nerve, which is responsible for sending messages between your eye and your brain, becomes damaged due to an accumulation of pressure within the eye itself. Once vision has been lost due to glaucoma it, unfortunately, cannot be restored.



The different types of glaucoma

Most people think glaucoma is a single condition, when in fact, there are multiple forms of the disease, including:

Open-angle glaucoma:

 This type of glaucoma is the most common variety and develops very slowly. Typically over several years the drainage channels within the eye become clogged. The symptoms also appear at a very gradual pace and is mostly painless. Because of this, patients can be affected for some time before they even realize it. In these instances, it is not unusual for patients to experience a small degree of vision loss before they are diagnosed. It is for this reason that regular glaucoma testing is advised and is usually performed as part of an annual comprehensive eye exam. 


Closed-angle glaucoma:

This type of glaucoma is much rarer and occurs when the iris of the eye bulges forward to narrow or block the drainage angle formed by the cornea and iris. This means fluid cannot circulate the eye as effectively, causing pressure to increase. This may happen slowly or can occur suddenly. In cases where pressure accumulates rapidly, urgent attention is needed to prevent serious and permanent vision loss. 


Secondary glaucoma:

Secondary glaucoma is fairly rare and is characterized as an accumulation of pressure within the eye caused by a prior injury or infection. This could be caused by direct trauma or by a condition such as uveitis. 


Congenital glaucoma:

 This type of glaucoma is very rare, but serious. It occurs as a result of an abnormality of the eye and is typically diagnosed within a week or two of birth. 



Symptoms of glaucoma

As we now know, the majority of cases of glaucoma are open-angle, with symptoms that develop slowly over many months or even years. In this instance, the only real indicator that you will have that you are suffering from glaucoma is a gradual loss of peripheral vision, which is often difficult to notice at first. Similarly, closed-angle glaucoma can develop slowly and present with the same initial symptom. 


If you develop sudden, closed-angle glaucoma then you may experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Severe eye pain
  • Headaches
  • Redness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Halos around lights 
  • Blurred vision

If you experience these symptoms, it is essential that you make an emergency appointment with your eye doctor. It may not necessarily be glaucoma, but it is crucial that your eyes are evaluated as soon as possible to prevent any damage to them or your vision. 



Treating glaucoma

Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to reverse or restore vision that has been lost due to damage to the optic nerve caused by pressure within the eye, but with the proper treatment, further damage can be slowed or prevented. This is one of the reasons why glaucoma testing is recommended on a regular basis, so that if there any signs of the condition, they can be detected early on and treated if necessary. Here are some of the available treatments: 

Eye drops. Eye drops are effective at reducing the amount of pressure in your eyes. There are various different types available and you may need to try several to find the most effective one. Your eye doctor will be able to make a recommendation. 

Laser treatment. Laser technology has transformed many aspects of ophthalmology, including treatment for glaucoma. Lasers can be used to open up the blocked drainage tubes so that the excess fluid can drain away effectively.

Surgery. If eye drops and laser treatment are unsuccessful, then you may be recommended to undergo surgery to reduce the pressure within your eyes. However, this is usually a last resort since other treatment methods are usually very effective.  


If you have further questions about glaucoma or would like to schedule an appointment to have your eyes assessed, our expert team would be delighted to help. Please get in touch by calling our offices today. 


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