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Glaucoma Eye

There are different types of glaucoma, Chronic open-angle glaucoma and Angle-closure glaucoma.

Chronic open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma in the United States. The drainage angle of the eye becomes less efficient with time, and pressure within the eye gradually increases. It occurs as a result of aging and damages vision so gradually and painlessly that you are not aware of trouble until the optic nerve is already badly damaged. Over 90% of adult glaucoma patients have this type of glaucoma.

Angle-closure glaucoma is when the drainage angle of the eye becomes completely blocked. The blockage is similar to a sheet of paper blocking the drainage hole in a kitchen sink, blocking the flow of water. In the eye, the iris (the colored part of the eye) may act like the sheet of paper closing off the eye’s drainage angle. Pressure then builds up suddenly within the eye, causing angle-closure glaucoma.

Glaucoma eye diagram

The clear liquid – aqueous humor, is constantly being produced within the eye (left). If the drainage angle of the eye is blocked, excess fluid cannot flow out of the eye (right).

How Glaucoma Occurs

Clear liquid, called the aqueous humor, circulates inside the eye. A small amount of this fluid is produced constantly, and an equal amount flows out of the eye through a microscopic drainage system. This liquid is not part of the tears on the outer surface of the eye. You can think of the flow of aqueous fluid as a sink with the faucet turned on all the time.

If the “drainpipe” gets clogged, water collects in the sink and the sink may overflow. Because the eye is a closed structure, the excess fluid cannot overflow if the drain is clogged. If the drainage area of the eye – called the drainage angle – is blocked, the fluid pressure within the inner eye may increase, which can damage the optic nerve.

Risk Factors

The most important risk factors for glaucoma include:

  • Age;
  • African ancestry;
  • A family history of glaucoma;
  • Past injuries to the eyes.
  • This means your risk of developing glaucoma is higher than normal, and you need to have regular examinations to detect the early signs of damage to the optic nerve.

    Possible Treatments

    As a rule, damage caused by glaucoma cannot be reversed. Eye drops, pills, and laser and surgical operations are used to prevent or slow further damage from occurring.

    With any type of glaucoma, periodic examinations are very important to prevent vision loss. Because glaucoma can worsen without your being aware of it, your treatment may need to be changed over time.

    Regular visits to your Ophthalmologist can help detect and treat glaucoma.

    Source of information above is the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Copyright 1998. American Academy of Ophthalmology.