Glaucoma is a disease caused by increased intraocular (IOP) resulting
either from a malformation or malfunction of the eyes drainage
structures. Left untreated, an elevated IOP causes irreversible
damage the optic nerve and retinal fibers, resulting in a progressive,
permanent loss of vision. However, early detection and treatment
can slow, or even halt the progression of the disease.
The eye constantly produces aqueous, the clear fluid that fills
the anterior chamber (the space between the cornea and iris). The
aqueous filters out of the anterior chamber through a complex drainage
system. The delicate balance between the production and drainage
of aqueous determines the eyes intraocular pressure (IOP).
Most peoples IOPs fall between 10 and 21. However, some eyes
can tolerate higher pressures than others. Thats why it may
be normal for one person to have a higher pressure than another.
There are several types of glaucoma. The most common is called open
angle, but also referred to as chronic open angle or primary open
angle. With this type, even though the anterior structures of the
eye appear normal, aqueous fluid builds within the anterior chamber,
causing the IOP to become elevated. Left untreated, this may result
in permanent damage of the optic nerve and retina. Eye drops are
generally prescribed to lower the eye pressure. In some cases, surgery
is performed if the IOP cannot be adequately controlled with medical
Another type of glaucoma is acute angle closure. Only about 10%
of the population with glaucoma have this type. Acute angle closure
occurs because of an abnormality of the structures in the front
of the eye. In most of these cases, the space between the iris and
cornea is more narrow than normal, leaving a smaller channel for
the aqueous to pass through. If the flow of aqueous becomes completely
blocked, the IOP rises sharply, causing a sudden angle closure attack.
While patients with open angle glaucoma dont typically have
symptoms, those with angle closure glaucoma may experience severe
eye pain accompanied by nausea, blurred vision, rainbows around
lights, and a red eye. This problem is an emergency and should be
treated by an ophthalmologist immediately. If left untreated, severe
and permanent loss of vision will occur in a matter of days.
Secondary glaucoma occurs as a result of another disease or problem
within the eye such as: inflammation, trauma, previous surgery,
diabetes, tumor, and certain medications. For this type, both the
glaucoma and the underlying problem must be treated.
Congenital glaucoma is a rare type of glaucoma that is generally
seen in infants. In most cases, surgery is required.
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