Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve of the eye. It is caused by increased intraocular pressure resulting either from an overproduction of the aqueous fluid of the eye or from a malfunction of the eyes drainage structures. Left untreated, an elevated intraocular pressure can cause irreversible damage to the optic nerve and can lead to permanent vision loss. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in people over 60 years old, but early detection and treatment can slow or halt the progression of glaucoma, and blindness can often be prevented.
There are two major types of glaucoma, Open Angle Glaucoma and Angle Closure Glaucoma.
Open Angle Glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma and occurs from the aqueous fluid gradually building up in the eye causing the intraocular pressure to become elevated. The danger of Open angle glaucoma is in its lack of symptoms. This type of glaucoma is typically painless and causes no vision changes at first. Routine eye exams are important to detect the disease.
Angle Closure Glaucoma only occurs in a small percentage of the glaucoma population. It is a result of an abnormality of the structures in the front of the eye known as the drainage angle. In most of these cases, the angle space between the iris and cornea is more narrow than normal, leaving a small channel where the aqueous flow becomes completely blocked, eye pressure rises very quickly and is called an angle closure attack. Angle Closure Glaucoma can cause blindness if not treated right away.
Most patients with glaucoma need only medications to control the eye pressure. Sometimes more than one medication is needed. There are also laser surgery procedures which can be done in the office, as well as operating room procedures when medical treatment fails to lower the eye pressure satisfactorily.
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