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Understanding the Types of Glaucoma

Glaucoma is an eye disease sometimes called the “sneak thief of vision”. Most patients have no noticeable symptoms until the disease is in a later stage. It is possible to lose your vision if it’s not detected and treated. Understanding the types of glaucoma and the necessity of regular eye exams may give you a heads up to save your vision.

Doctor holding model of the eye.

Glaucoma Facts

With glaucoma your eye’s optic nerve becomes damaged overtime. It is accompanied by a buildup of pressure in your eye called intraocular pressure (IOP). It develops later in life and does run in families. It usually affects both eyes, but can be worse in one.

Your optic nerve sends messages and images to the brain. If the intraocular pressure is not reduced, you can lose vision permanently.

There are no early symptoms or pain from glaucoma. The only way to diagnose and limit its progression is to see Hecht Eye Institute on a regular basis. A fully dilated eye exam can identify glaucoma.

What Causes Glaucoma

The fluid in our eyes is called aqueous humor, and it should flow out of our eyes on a regular basis through a mesh screen. If the liquid builds up from a blockage or the eye is producing too much fluid, eye pressure builds.

Other less common causes are: an eye injury or chemical injury to the eye, severe eye infections, blocked blood vessels, and sometimes surgery.

Types of Glaucoma

There are two main types of glaucoma: Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma and Angle-Closure Glaucoma.

Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma

Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma happens when the drainage canals in the eye become blocked. It is the most common type. When the correct amount of fluid cannot drain out of the eye, intraocular pressure in the eye rises. Somewhere in the system there is a blockage. The drainage canals look clear, but the blockage is down below. As this occurs, it damages the optic nerve.

This type develops slowly over years, and there are virtually no symptoms of signs anything is wrong. It can be managed if caught in time and with regular eye appointments. The only symptoms you may eventually notice are dark spots in your peripheral vision.

It is also called Wide-Angle Glaucoma.

Angle-Closure Glaucoma

Patients with this type of glaucoma have no symptoms until the time they have a severe or acute attack. It is caused by the edge of the iris covering and completely blocking the drainage canals. When the pupil enlarges, like going into a dark room, the pressure will increase too quickly. This seems to be more common in Asia.

This is a medical emergency and you should see Hecht Eye Institute immediately. The symptoms include the following:

  • Severe eye pain
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Rainbows around lights at night

There are several other types of glaucoma caused by the same blockage to fluid drainage. Regular dilated eye exams can discover these types as well.

Treatments for Glaucoma

Once glaucoma is diagnosed, there are medications both oral and drops, plus possibly surgery to stop the progression of glaucoma.

Contact Hecht Eye Institute at (310) 370-5648 for a fully dilated eye exam at one of our locations to discover if you may have one of the types of glaucoma.

Ready to get started?

Schedule your appointment with Dr. Hecht and be on your way to better eye health!