Glaucoma is a group of diseases in which there is a blockage of fluid drainage from the eye. When fluid cannot drain properly from the eye, the pressure inside the eye may rise to a level that can damage the optic nerve that brings information from the back of the eye (retina) resulting in vision loss and blindness. This group of diseases makes up the second most common cause of blindness.
There are multiple types of glaucoma, the most common of which is open-angle glaucoma. In open-angle glaucoma, fluid builds up in the anterior chamber of the eye because it cannot drain through a meshwork structure between the colored part of the eye that controls light entry (iris) and the lens (cornea). In this form of glaucoma, side or peripheral vision is usually lost first. Other types of glaucoma include low-tension or normal-tension glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma, congenital glaucoma, secondary glaucoma, neovascular glaucoma, pigmentary glaucoma, and pseudoexfoliation glaucoma. In angle-closure glaucoma, the iris blocks the channel that normally allows fluid leave the front of the eye. Symptoms of angle-closure glaucoma include eye pain, nausea, blurred vision, and redness of the eye. Medical attention should be sought promptly if angle-closure glaucoma is suspected.
Glaucoma can be diagnosed with a comprehensive dilated eye exam and by measuring intraocular pressure (IOP). Regular eye exams are important because some forms of glaucoma are often asymptomatic prior to permanent vision loss. Treatment options include medication, laser surgery to create holes in the meshwork and allow fluid to drain from the anterior chamber (laser trabeculoplasty), and surgery to alter the iris to allow fluid drainage. If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options. Support groups are good sources of more information and can connect you with other people living with glaucoma.