Common Types of Glaucoma (And Signs You Should Look Out For)
Common Types of Glaucoma and Knowing if You’re at Risk
Do you know the common symptoms of glaucoma? What about the different types of glaucoma? Here’s your guide to understanding it so you can care for your eyes.
Keyword(s): types of glaucoma
It is estimated that there are 2.2 million people in the United States suffering from one of the primary types of glaucoma.
This number is only expected to grow as the population begins to age. Since glaucoma typically doesn’t have any early symptoms, many of these people won’t know they have it until it is too late.
You can address glaucoma if it is caught early on.
Keep reading to learn about all the different types of glaucoma so that you know what to look for.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a blanket term used to refer to a group of related eye disorders. They often stem from ocular hypertension or higher-than-normal intraocular pressure. It can also occur when the pressure in your eye is normal.
In its early stages, glaucoma typically presents with no symptoms. This is what makes it so dangerous. By the time most notice their sight diminishing, the majority of the damage has been done.
Once you have been affected by glaucoma, you will begin to lose your peripheral vision and eventually you may go completely blind. In fact, glaucoma is the second most common cause of blindness in the United States.
Types of Glaucoma
Types of glaucoma are categorized in two ways. The first is open-angle glaucoma and the other is narrow-angle glaucoma. In both cases, the term angle refers to the slant of drainage inside the eye.
This is how the watery fluids continually produced by your eye are able to drain.
Variations of Open-Angle Glaucoma:
- Primary Open Angle Glaucoma
- Normal-tension Glaucoma
- Pigmentary Glaucoma
- Pseudoexfoliation Glaucoma
- Secondary Glaucoma
- Congenital Glaucoma
Variations of Narrow-Angle Glaucoma:
- Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma
- Chronic Angle Closure Glaucoma
- Neovascular Glaucoma
Each of these types of glaucoma has different symptoms and treatment options. The severity of the conditions also varies greatly. Keep reading for more specific information on individual forms of glaucoma.
Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma
This is a very common form of glaucoma that reduces your peripheral vision gradually without any other symptoms. It most often goes unnoticed until permanent damage has occurred.
Similarly to other types of glaucoma, primary open-angle is often caused by high inner eye pressure. If it remains at high levels, destruction will continue to progress until you develop tunnel vision. That means that you will only be able to see the objects that are directly in front of you.
If your condition continues to go untreated, ultimately, this condition will lead to complete vision loss.
See your doctor as soon as you notice changes in your vision.
Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma
Another name for this form is narrow-angle glaucoma. The symptoms of this version occur suddenly and the condition presents with much more than vision loss.
Acute angle-closure glaucoma sufferers also struggle with dilated pupils, red eyes, nausea and vomiting, halos around lights, eye pain and headaches.
If you have these symptoms then this is a medical emergency. You are experiencing an attack that can last for a few hours and may even return again for another round at a later date.
For the especially unfortunate, the condition may be continuous and without relief. Every time an attack occurs, your vision will deteriorate more.
Make sure you act quickly to seek medical attention so that you can minimize any permanent damage.
In a similar way to primary open-angle glaucoma, normal-tension glaucoma is a type of open-angle glaucoma that may cause you to lose some of your vision due to optic nerve damage.
In normal-tension glaucoma, pain is unlikely and the eye pressure remains in the normal range. Symptoms may not be noticed until the optic nerve is so damaged that tunnel vision develops.
Unfortunately, it’s not known what causes normal-tension glaucoma. Many doctors have theorized that it may be because of reduced blood flow to the optic nerve.
It’s common in people of Japanese descent, women, and people who have a family history of vascular disease.
This is one of the rarest types of glaucoma. It’s caused by a blockage of eye pigment that breaks loose from the iris. This blockage reduces the rate that liquids can flow down the drainage angle which can lead to inflammation.
Symptoms are unlikely to be noticed with pigmentary glaucoma. Some have reported blurry vision and pain after exercise.
This form of glaucoma typically occurs in white males between thirty and fifty.
Secondary glaucoma is often caused by an eye injury. It develops with the presence of an eye infection, inflammation, tumors, or enlargement of the lens from a cataract.
One of the types of glaucoma that occurs in families is congenital glaucoma. The condition can be diagnosed within the first year of birth. The eyes of children born with congenital glaucoma have naturally narrow angles or other defects in the drainage system of their eyes.
It can be difficult to spot signs of congenital glaucoma. If a child has not experienced normal vision, then they may not know something is wrong.
One way you may find out your child is suffering from congenital glaucoma is the appearance of the eye.
It may appear cloudy, white, hazy, or even be protruding slightly in a similar way to a cataract. This condition is more common in males, although females can be affected.
Am I At Risk?
Some types of glaucoma are more prevalent in one gender or race than others.
For example, open-angle glaucoma is three times more likely to affect African-Americans in the United States. In addition, glaucoma is six times more prevalent in African-Americans.
In addition to African-Americans, Hispanics and Latinos may also have an increased risk of glaucoma. If you are part of either of these ethnic groups you should take care to get regular screenings for glaucoma when you have your eyes checked by your doctor.
Discovering You Have Glaucoma
One of the most frustrating problems with combating glaucoma is the fact that many forms display absolutely no symptoms in those affected by the condition. It is a silent force wrecking havoc behind the scenes and it is often too late to reverse.
Glaucoma can progress undetected for an extended period of time until the optic nerve has been irreversibly damaged. The degrees of permanent vision loss vary.
The only one of the many types of glaucoma that can be noticed well in advance is acute angle-closure glaucoma.
The sudden symptoms may include blurry vision, halos around the lights, incredibly intense eye pain, nausea, and vomiting. If you experience these symptoms you should head to the emergency room immediately to take steps to prevent the permanent loss of your vision.
Screening for Glaucoma
Although you may not experience symptoms, glaucoma is a condition that can be scanned for.
During your yearly eye exam, a tonometer is used. This tool measures your intraocular pressure.
Before the tonometer is used your eye will be numbed with eye drops. Then your doctor will rest a small probe against the surface of your eye. A puff of air is then pushed out and a measure of your eye pressure is given.
If the reading is outside of a normal range that indicates a problem with the fluid in the eye. Either too much liquid is being produced or proper draining is not occurring.
Your eye pressure should be below twenty-one millimeters of mercury which is a measurement made based on how much force is exerted by your eye within a defined area.
If the reading is higher than thirty than you have forty times greater of a risk for glaucoma than someone with eye pressure of fifteen millimeters of mercury or less.
Other Screening Methods
Another method of monitoring for various types of glaucoma is using sophisticated imaging technology. An example of this is the scanning laser polarimetry, optical coherence tomography, and confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy.
These fancy pieces of equipment work together taking measurements of the optic nerve and the internal structures of your eye. Then these measurements are used to create baseline images that can be used to detect glaucoma.
Over a period of years these images will pile up and your doctor will able to look for any signs of glaucoma progression in your eye.
Another way to test for types of glaucoma is with visual field testing. This involves staring straight ahead and clicking a button whenever you notice that a light is blinking in your peripheral vision.
It can be repeated at intervals to ensure that a blind spot is not developing from damage to your optic nerve. In addition, it can be used to determine the extent of progression of your vision loss.
The final glaucoma-related test is called gonioscopy. It can be performed to ensure the aqueous humor can drain from your eye freely.
Special lenses are used alongside a biomicroscope to allow your eye doctor to view the structure inside the eye.
Treatment for Different Types of Glaucoma
Before anything serious like surgery is considered, your doctor will most likely prescribe you eye drops. These drops are meant to control your eye pressure, lowing it to control glaucoma.
If the condition persists then lasers and medication can be tried. Depending on the severity of your glaucoma, this may be able to give you some relief.
The final solution that can be attempted is glaucoma surgery.
The goal of this surgery is to decrease the production of aqueous humor, the intraocular fluid. Alternatively, the surgery may attempt to increase the outflow, or drainage, or the aqueous humor liquid.
The goal of all these treatments is to reduce and stabilize intraocular pressure. This can help to prevent damage to the optic nerve and save your vision.
No matter what treatment plan you choose, be sure to follow through with your doctor’s advice.
Non-compliance can lead to blindness that was preventable.
If you feel like the eye drops that you are prescribed and inconvenient for you or uncomfortable, don’t discontinue using them. First, consult your eye doctor for a consultation about alternative treatment.
Research has been done recently in Europe that shows exercise can be beneficial for some people. They found that with higher levels of physical exercise, there was a long-term effect of reducing the occurrence of low ocular pressure. This is an important risk factor for the development of glaucoma.
In the study participants that had moderate physical exercise during their youth had a twenty-five percent reduction in their risk of low ocular pressure.
The link between eye pressure and cardiovascular fitness is indisputable.
Maintaining an active lifestyle may be the most effective way for you to reduce your risk of both glaucoma and a series of other health problems. You should also avoid smoking, maintain your weight, and eat a diet that is healthy and consists of varied ingredients.
Glaucoma is a type of inner eye condition that occurs because of improper drainage in the eye. It often occurs with no symptoms so it can be difficult to catch it before the problem becomes serious.
If left untreated, most types of glaucoma will eventually lead to blindness.
There are some types of glaucoma that are more common in African-Americans, Hispanics, and those of Asian descent. For those in these ethnic groups, yearly screening should be conducted to check for glaucoma.
Treatments for glaucoma can range in seriousness from eye drops to surgery. Based on your specific condition, your doctor will be able to recommend the best treatment plan for you. Once given a plan to follow, it is imperative that you continue.
If you find that your treatment plan isn’t working for you, see your doctor for an alternative option before discarding any current regimen. When you are in need of a doctor of ophthalmology or optometry, you should hire someone with experience to help guide you through these processes.
At Magruder Eye Institute, we offer glaucoma screenings and have experience in combating this issue head-on. Contact us today for an appointment.