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Does Glaucoma Lead to Blindness?

Does Glaucoma Lead to Blindness?

Glaucoma is the second most common cause of blindness in the United States. Depending on what type of glaucoma you have, your risk may come at an earlier or later age. Other health conditions can also increase your risk of going blind from glaucoma. 

At Harlem VistaSite Eye Care in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, Brittni Rodriguez, OD, diagnoses and recommends treatment for various types of glaucoma. In this blog, Dr. Rodriguez discusses risk of blindness from glaucoma and your potential treatment options.

Glaucoma basics

Glaucoma is a range of conditions brought on by increased pressure inside the eye.

Your eyes constantly produce aqueous humor, a water-like fluid. It drains steadily out of channels in your iris and cornea, known as the trabecular meshwork and the uveoscleral outflow

When one or both of these drainage systems become blocked, the pressure inside the eye increases. As intraocular pressure (IOP) rises, it damages the optic nerve. This type of damage is typically irreversible. Without treatment to lower IOP, most people with glaucoma will start to go blind, some more quickly than others.

Types of glaucoma

There are five major types of glaucoma. 

Open-angle (chronic) glaucoma 

Open angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma. Open angle glaucoma happens when the trabecular meshwork offers increased resistance to fluid outflow, causing IOP to rise. Around 80% of glaucoma causes are open angle glaucoma. You can have this kind of glaucoma and not even know it, since there are often no symptoms in the early stages, and vision loss can happen very slowly.

Angle-closure (acute) glaucoma

Acute angle-closure glaucoma is much rarer, but much more severe and fast-acting. In closed-angle glaucoma, both the uveoscleral drain and the trabecular meshwork become blocked, usually because of a damaged iris that is pressed up against the cornea, blocking both drainage systems. This can cause severe visual disturbances and pain and should be treated immediately by an emergency care eye doctor.

Secondary glaucoma

Third on the list is secondary glaucoma, which usually shows up as a side effect of another health condition, such as diabetes or cataract. The increased pressure in the eye in these cases isn’t caused by blocked drainage systems, but by the other health problems.

Congenital glaucoma

There is also a congenital type of glaucoma that runs in families. A child can be born with a defect that blocks normal drainage. This is usually accompanied by additional symptoms such as cloudy eyes, excess tear production, and/or light sensitivity.

Normal tension glaucoma

Finally, there is a rare condition called normal tension glaucoma. This happens when there is an injury to the optic nerve that makes it respond incorrectly even though your IOP is fine and the drainage systems are operating as they should.

Treatment for glaucoma 

At Harlem VistaSite Eye Care, we use two different diagnostic machines to check for glaucoma. 

If we detect glaucoma, we’ll identify what type it is and recommend treatment, which may include eye drops, oral medication, or surgery. Damage done can’t be reversed, but we can work to slow progression of the disease and lower IOP.

Need more information about glaucoma? Learn more by booking an appointment online or over the phone with Harlem VistaSite Eye Care today.

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