What Are The Different Types Of Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an eye condition that damages the optic nerve, which transmits visual information to the brain (via the Mayo Clinic). As one of the top causes of blindness for those who are 60 and older, glaucoma can affect people of all ages, although it is more common in older adults. The condition usually occurs when intraocular pressure begins to build up inside the eye, blocking drainage and leading to fluid accumulation, per the Cleveland Clinic. This buildup of fluid causes the pressure inside the eye to increase, and over time, it can damage the optic nerve, potentially leading to vision loss.

Symptoms of glaucoma vary depending on the type and stage of the disease. In the early stages, there may be no symptoms at all, and vision loss may only occur gradually. As the disease progresses, there may be a gradual loss of vision, including blind spots and tunnel vision, nausea, headaches, and eye pain.

The different types of glaucoma

There are several types of glaucoma, each with its own unique characteristics and risk factors. Open-angle glaucoma occurs in 90% of glaucoma cases in the United States, per the Cleveland Clinic. This type of glaucoma is characterized by increased pressure within the eye due to a buildup of fluid that cannot drain properly. It develops slowly and often has no symptoms.

Angle-closure glaucoma occurs when the angle of your iris (the colored part of the eye) isn't wide enough to allow fluid drainage to occur. This can cause sudden, severe symptoms such as eye pain and headache, requiring immediate medical attention. Congenital glaucoma, also known as pediatric glaucoma, is rare and caused by an abnormality in the eye's drainage system. This type of glaucoma is usually noticed by a healthcare provider during infancy or childhood.

Secondary glaucoma refers to cases where another underlying condition or medication causes glaucoma. For example, steroid use can cause an increase in eye pressure and lead to the development of the condition, per a 2022 review published in StatPearls. Finally, normal-tension glaucoma occurs even when eye pressure is within the normal range. The exact cause of normal-tension glaucoma is unknown, but a hypersensitive optic nerve, as well as poor blood flow to the optic nerve, may be potential causes, per WebMD.

How is glaucoma treated?

Glaucoma can't be reversed, and management of the condition will depend on which type you have and how severe it is. With appropriate treatment, the progression of the disease can be slowed down, and vision loss can be delayed. Eye drops are a common way to treat glaucoma. They work by reducing the amount of fluid produced in the eye or by increasing fluid drainage from the eye, per the Mayo Clinic. Several different kinds of eye drops are available, and your doctor will prescribe the appropriate one based on your specific condition. It is essential to follow the instructions carefully and take the medication as directed to ensure its effectiveness.

In addition to eye drops, your healthcare provider may recommend laser therapy or surgery to support fluid drainage. Oral medication such as a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor may be prescribed to decrease eye pressure as well (via the Mayo Clinic). Regardless of which avenue you and your doctor decide on, following your treatment plan and attending regular follow-up appointments are essential to ensure the best possible outcome.