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Understanding the Different Types of Glaucoma

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness, especially in people over age 60. However, there’s more than one type of glaucoma.

At Harlem VistaSite Eye Care in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, Brittni Rodriguez, OD, is an expert in diagnosing and treating glaucoma. In this blog, Dr. Rodriguez discusses the different kinds of glaucoma and some of the treatment options.

Types of glaucoma

Your eyes continuously produce a water-like fluid called aqueous humor. When it fills the front part of your eye, it drains out of various channels in your iris and cornea. This drainage system is called the trabecular meshwork. If this meshwork becomes blocked or stops working, the fluid can build up and begin increasing pressure within the eye. 

As the intraocular pressure (IOP) begins to rise, it can damage the optic nerve. This condition is commonly known as glaucoma. There are five major types of glaucoma. 

Open-angle (chronic) glaucoma 

This is the most common type of glaucoma. It occurs when the meshwork within the eye stops working, not because the pathways are blocked by something. With this condition, the pressure within the eye builds slowly, leading to a gradual loss of vision. You might not realize you’re suffering from open angle glaucoma until noticeable vision loss has occurred. 

Angle-closure (acute) glaucoma

If the drainage system within your eye suddenly becomes blocked, the pressure within your eye may suddenly rise. This is known as acute angle-closure glaucoma, and it’s an emergency situation. You may experience severe pain, nausea, blurred vision, and see halos around lights.

Congenital glaucoma

Congenital glaucoma often runs in families. When a child is born with congenital glaucoma, they will typically have symptoms like excess tear production, light sensitivity, and cloudy eyes. This is due to a defect blocking normal fluid drainage from the eye.

Secondary glaucoma

This type of glaucoma is caused or influenced by another condition or disease. For example, cataracts or diabetes can increase the pressure within the eye, which can lead to secondary glaucoma.  

Normal tension glaucoma

Normal tension glaucoma means the pressure within your eye is normal, but your optic nerve is responding incorrectly. This is a rarer form of glaucoma that is caused by damage to the optic nerve, not the drainage system or increased pressure inside the eye. 

Diagnosing and treating glaucoma 

The earlier glaucoma is diagnosed, the better your prognosis will be. As mentioned above, many people don’t realize they’re experiencing glaucoma until they’ve lost a significant portion of their vision. Every time you get your eyes checked, your provider checks for signs of glaucoma. This is why it’s so important to get your vision checked regularly. 

At Harlem VistaSite Eye Care, there are two diagnostic machines we use to identify glaucoma. One device is called the visual field machine, and it tests your central and peripheral vision. The other device is called the Optomap® machine, and it creates a digital scan of your retina to check for eye diseases.

If glaucoma is detected, your treatment will depend on the type and severity of your condition. While there’s no cure for glaucoma, proper treatment can slow down its progress and help you retain as much of your vision as possible. Treatments could include oral medication, eye drops, or even surgery.

Do you suffer from vision loss? Do you have a family history of glaucoma? Get answers and potential treatment by booking an appointment online or over the phone with Harlem VistaSite Eye Care today.

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