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Different Types of Glaucoma: A Guide to Causes and Treatment

Gina Walters
Published

LAST UPDATED:

types of glaucoma

Glaucoma, often known as the silent thief of sight, is a group of eye disorders where increased eye pressure can lead to vision loss.

There are several forms of Glaucoma, each with different symptoms and causes.

The symptoms of each form of Glaucoma vary; most don’t show any signs at first.

Hence, it’s essential to be tested frequently, particularly if you’re at a greater risk. 

While there is no known cure for Glaucoma, vision protection and damage may frequently be stopped with early diagnosis and proper treatment.

This article will enlighten the different types of Glaucoma in detail.

Types of Glaucoma

Glaucoma can be categorized into four major types: Open-Angle Glaucoma, Angle-Closure Glaucoma, Congenital Glaucoma, and Secondary Glaucoma.

Open-Angle Glaucoma

Open-Angle Glaucoma is the most prevalent type of Glaucoma.

Around 2 million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with Open-Angle Glaucoma.

It is believed that it might be caused by high eye pressure.

In Open-Angle Glaucoma, the eye continues to generate a liquid known as aqueous humor. However, the trabecular meshwork inside the eyes, which is responsible for the drainage of the fluid, cannot accommodate it. 

This imbalance in fluid production and drainage leads to excess aqueous fluid inside the eyes.

Thus, the intraocular pressure (IOP) rises as the fluid accumulates, damaging the optic nerve that transmits signals to the brain.

The damaged optic nerve can lead to vision loss.

Most persons with Open-Angle Glaucoma have no symptoms in the early stages of the illness. 

However, as the optic nerve is constantly exposed to increasing eye pressure, it becomes injured. 

This damage eventually appears as defects in the peripheral visual field.

Open-Angle Glaucoma can eventually lead to blindness if the eye pressure is not checked and maintained.

It tends to run in families

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  • Angle-closure Glaucoma

    The other names for Angle-Closure Glaucoma are Closed-angle Glaucoma, Narrow-angle Glaucoma, and Acute-angle Glaucoma.

    This form of Glaucoma is less frequent than Open-Angle Glaucoma.

    In Angle-Closure Glaucoma, the outer borderline of the iris (the colored area of your eye) prevents fluid from draining out from the eye. 

    The fluid soon accumulates, creating an increase in intraocular pressure. 

    Angle-closure Glaucoma, if left untreated, can result in blindness in a few days. 

    Farsighted (Hyperopic) people are more prone to this type of Glaucoma because their eyes are normally smaller.

    However, Narrow-angle Glaucoma can develop in nearsighted eyes too.

    Unfortunately, the optic nerve damage caused by an Angle-Closure Glaucoma incident can be severe and permanent.

    want to know more about the difference between Open and Closed-Angle Glaucoma? Read our article: Open vs Closed Angle Glaucoma: An In-depth Comparison

    Congenital Glaucoma

    Congenital Glaucoma occurs in babies and is usually diagnosed in the first few months of a child’s life. 

    Tearing, red eye, light sensitivity, and a cloudy appearance of the eye are the common symptoms most often seen in infants with Congenital Glaucoma.

    Congenital Glaucoma is uncommon, found only in 1 in 10,000 live births.

    The illness affects both eyes in the vast majority of Congenital Glaucoma patients. 

    Kids with Congenital Glaucoma are born with an abnormality in the eye that restricts fluid from draining normally. 

    This is caused by a malformation of the trabecular meshwork drainage angle during fetal development. 

    The defective trabecular meshwork obstructs the correct drainage of aqueous fluid within the eye, resulting in an increase in intraocular pressure. 

    The optic nerve is eventually harmed as a result of the increased eye pressure and may lead to blindness.

    Secondary Glaucoma

    Chronic Anterior Uveitis (affecting front part of the eye)Source: Andrei310_from_Getty_Images
    Chronic Anterior Uveitis (affecting front part of the eye)

    Secondary Glaucoma is an acquired type of Glaucoma that can be seen in the form of Open-angle or Angle-Closure Glaucoma and is usually temporary.

    This kind of Glaucoma may arise from certain medical conditions, such as eye diseases like Uveitis (an inflammation of the middle layer of the eye), Diabetes, and tumors.

    It could also result from inflammatory illnesses, trauma, or steroid usage. 

    Traumatic Glaucoma

    Traumatic Glaucoma can take place due to damage to the trabecular meshwork.

    The damage can occur from either acute or severe eye injury. 

    Due to this, the trabecular meshwork becomes ineffective in eliminating the aqueous humor from the eye. 

    Consequently, the intraocular pressure rises as the volume of aqueous fluid in the eye increases, damaging the optic nerve. 

    Damage to the optic nerve eventually leads to abnormalities in the vision field and, in certain situations, blindness.

    Neovascular Glaucoma

    Neovascular Glaucoma is another type of Secondary Glaucoma. 

    It is caused by neovascularization, characterized by the growth of abnormal new blood vessels across the drainage system and on the iris.

    Patients with Diabetic Retinopathy or those who have experienced a retinal vascular occlusion are commonly affected by this type of Glaucoma. 

    Elevated ocular pressure can result from the developing blood vessels blocking the trabecular meshwork. 

    Glossary:

  • Diabetic Retinopathy is an eye-related consequence of Diabetes. It is the result of damage to the blood vessels in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye.
  • Retinal vascular occlusion is a blockage of the tiny veins that remove blood from the retina.
  • Uveitic Glaucoma

    Uveitic Glaucoma may be a Secondary Angle-Closure Glaucoma, Secondary Open-Angle Glaucoma, or both.

    Uveitic Glaucoma is a common complication associated with Uveitis, affecting nearly 20% of people suffering from the disease.

    Treatment for Uveitis may result in increased intraocular pressure (IOP).  

    Excessive IOP can result in visual field loss and Glaucomatous optic neuropathy, characterized by the Glaucoma in the optic nerve.

    Steroid-induced Glaucoma

    The most common cause of Steroid-induced Glaucoma is the use of steroid eye drops, prescribed for treating several eye disorders. 

    However, it may also occur due to the use of oral, inhaled, intravenous, or steroids injected into the eye or applied topically to the area surrounding the eyes.

    Individuals with Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma are more likely to get Steroid-induced Glaucoma.

    Treating different types of Glaucoma

    Laser eye surgerySource: bojanstory_from_Getty_Images
    Laser eye surgery

    Based on the diagnosis, the doctor will prescribe the best effective treatment for the type of Glaucoma you have.

    The doctors usually recommend eye drops, oral medicines, laser surgery, or microsurgery to treat Open-Angle Glaucoma.

    Doctors generally prescribe Glaucoma eye drops as the first line of treatment for Glaucoma.

    Eye drops are used to decrease the amount of fluid in your eyes or increase its drainage, thus reducing intraocular pressure.  

    However, there are some side effects of Glaucoma eye drops.

    Additionally, your doctor may recommend oral medications, such as Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors or Beta-blockers

    These medications can decrease the production of fluid in your eyes or increase drainage.

    Laser surgery can enhance the flow of fluid from your eye if you have Open-Angle Glaucoma.

    Whereas, if you have Angle-Closure Glaucoma, laser surgery can enhance fluid drainage.

    Trabeculectomy or microsurgery is performed to relieve eye pressure and remove the fluid.

    This is usually done by creating a new drainage channel facilitating fluid outflow from the eyes into the circulation. 

    Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma is typically treated using laser surgery.

    On the other hand, Congenital Glaucoma is usually addressed by surgery as a drainage system issue is the underlying cause of an infant’s Congenital Glaucoma.

    Warning:
    Glaucoma eye drops can lead to side effects like itching, redness, and swelling. Immediately reach out to the doctor if any of these side effects persist.

    Conclusion

    Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that can cause vision loss if left untreated.

    Open-Angle Glaucoma, Angle-Closure Glaucoma, Congenital Glaucoma, and Secondary Glaucoma are the four major types of Glaucoma.

    Each type of Glaucoma has different symptoms, causes, and treatment approaches.

    Although vision loss due to any form of Glaucoma can not be reversed, its progression may be slowed down with early diagnosis and proper treatment.

    Eye drops, oral medicines, and surgery are mostly prescribed by doctors to treat Glaucoma, depending on its type and causes.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    How many types of Glaucoma are there?

    Glaucoma is broadly classified under four major categories.

    These include Open-Angle Glaucoma, Angle-Closure Glaucoma, Congenital Glaucoma, and Secondary Glaucoma.

    What is the major cause behind Secondary Glaucoma?

    Secondary Glaucoma can result from certain medical conditions, such as Uveitis (an inflammation of the middle layer of the eye), Diabetes, and tumors.

    Inflammatory illnesses, trauma, or steroid usage can also lead to Secondary Glaucoma.

    List some common types of Secondary Glaucoma.

    Traumatic Glaucoma, Neovascular Glaucoma, Uveitic Glaucoma, and Steroid-induced Glaucoma are some of the most common types of Secondary Glaucoma.

    Which is the most common type of Glaucoma?

    The most common form of Glaucoma is Open-Angle Glaucoma.

    Around 2 million US citizens are diagnosed with Open-Angle Glaucoma.

    Which is the most severe type of Glaucoma?

    Closed-angle or Angle-Closure Glaucoma is the most severe form of Glaucoma.

    It occurs due to the blockage of the drainage channel inside the eyes, causing building up of intraocular pressure.

    This, in turn, damages the optic nerve, leading to vision loss.

    It is an emergency situation that needs immediate attention.

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