As it is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, we at Hudson Valley Eye Surgeons felt it is a perfect opportunity to learn what exactly glaucoma is. Check out this throwback CBS piece telling Dennis Howard’s story!

While most are familiar with the term “glaucoma”, many do not know it is a leading cause of vision loss that affects more than 3 million people in the United States. Glaucoma often is called "the sneak thief of sight" for its difficulty to identify in early stages. While glaucoma has few symptoms or warning signs in its early stages, catching it early sometimes (but not always) has the ability slow the progression of the disease. However, as of yet, there is no cure for glaucoma. Glaucoma’s difficulty to identify is one of the many reasons a comprehensive dilated eye exam is crucial, especially for people who are over 40.

What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can lead to blindness by damaging the optic nerve (the thing transmits information from the eye to the brain). When the optic nerve is damaged, images cannot be properly processed and interpreted by the brain and therefore leads to progressive, irreversible blindness. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness.

The Different Types of Glaucoma
Another fact about glaucoma that is often unknown is that there are different types of the blinding disease. They are:

1.Primary Open Angle Glaucoma
In Primary Open Angle Glaucoma (POAG), inner eye pressure (known as intraocular pressure or IOP) rises because fluid can’t drain out of the eye. With POAG, the clogging of the eyes’ drainage canals occurs further inside rather than near the entrance, similar to a clogged pipe below the drain in a sink.

Vision loss is with this type of glaucoma is usually gradual, and often there are no early warning signs. Additionally, type of glaucoma is typical passed down genetically.


2.Angle Closure Glaucoma
Angle Closure Glaucoma is less common than POAG in the United States. In this type of glaucoma, the entrance to the eyes’ drainage canal is either too narrow or is closed completely, blocking fluid draining. With angle closure glaucoma, eye pressure can rise very quickly.

Symptoms of angle closure glaucoma can include sudden eye pain, nausea, headaches, and blurred vision. If you experience these symptoms, seek immediate medical treatment.

3.Normal Tension Glaucoma
In this type of glaucoma, also known as low-pressure glaucoma, the optic nerve is damaged, yet eye pressure is not elevated excessively. Risk factors for this type of glaucoma include family history of any type of glaucoma and/or cardiovascular disease.

Much like POAG, this type of glaucoma is treated by keeping pressure in the eye at a safe level to prevent the progression of vision loss.

4.Secondary Glaucoma
Secondary glaucoma is glaucoma that develops secondary to, or as complications of, other conditions. Some of these include eye trauma, cataracts, diabetes, or tumors.

How Is Glaucoma Detected?
As previously said, glaucoma is often difficult to spot in early stages. Due to this, the best way to protect your sight is to schedule regular comprehensive dilated eye examinations. These exams should include the following components:
A health and medication history
A vision history
Visual acuity testing
Basic visual field testing

Additional Tests for Glaucoma
If your eye doctor suspects that you may have glaucoma, there are additional tests that can help doctors understand what is going on in your eye. These tests include pachymetry, perimetry, and gonioscopy.

What Is the Treatment for Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a chronic condition that must be monitored for life. With proper monitoring and treatment, glaucoma can be managed but not cured. Current treatment options include eye medications, laser treatment, and surgery.

Additional Information

For more posts about glaucoma and related topics, follow the HVES blog.

For patient-centered information about glaucoma detection, treatment, and everyday management, see Hudson Valley Eye Surgeons’ website at HVES.com and the National Eye Institute.