What is glaucoma?

Posted on: 20 July 2018 by 50connect editorial

Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that cause damage to optic nerve, which carries information from the eye to the brain.


Initially, there are no symptoms for glaucoma, hence why it is considered so dangerous, as by the time you realise, it can often mean that irreversible vision loss has already happened.

Glaucoma is also linked to unusually high pressure within the eye (called ocular hypertension). If this is left untreated, it could lead to peripheral vision loss and eventually blindness.

There are two major categories of glaucoma – the word ‘angle’ in these groups refers to the drainage angle in the eye, which will control the flow of fluid that is produced in the eye.

Primary open angle glaucoma

this type of glaucoma will slowly reduce your peripheral vision, with no other symptoms present. Once you do notice it, you will already have some degree of vision damage. If this remains untreated, you will be left with tunnel vision, and will only be able to see objects straight ahead. This type of glaucoma can lead to blindness, so do ensure you are checked regularly.

Normal tension glaucoma

also known as normal pressure glaucoma, it is a form of open angle glaucoma that will cause visual field loss as a result of optic nerve damage. Here, the pressure within the eye remains relatively normal, but permanent damage may go unnoticed until symptoms like tunnel vision begins to become prominent.

Cause for NTG is not known, however it is more common in women or those with a history of vascular disease.

Acute angle-closure glaucoma

also known as narrow angle glaucoma, it reveals itself in symptoms such as headaches, haloes around lights, dilated pupils, vision loss, nausea and vomiting. These bursts can last for a few hours, will subside and return again, slowly causing vision loss. This may be a medical emergency, so please seek a doctor.

Secondary glaucoma

the symptoms of chronic glaucoma, following injury to the eye, could indicate this type of glaucoma. It can develop within the presence of an eye infection, inflammation to the eye, a tumour and/or an enlargement of the lens as a result of a cataract.

Congenital glaucoma

This form of glaucoma is present from birth. Babies are born with narrow angles, as well as other issues with the drainage system of the eye. This is very difficult to diagnose as babies aren’t able to understand what is happening to them. If you do, however, notice clouding or enlarged or protruding eyes, please consult your doctor. This kind of disorder is present in more boys than girls.

Pigmentary glaucoma

is a rare form of glaucoma, caused by clogging of the drainage angle in the eye, by the pigment that has detached from the iris, blocking the flow of the fluid from the eye. Over time, this will result in an inflammatory reaction to the blocked drainage angle. It is very unlikely that symptoms will be noticeable with this type of glaucoma, though you may feel slight pain and blurred vision after rigorous exercise. This affects men in their late 30s to early 40s.

Known as the ‘silent thief of sight’, glaucoma can take your vision without a hint. During your regular eye tests, or consultations for lens surgery, the optometrist will perform tonometer readings, to measure the pressure in your eye. A high reading will show the optometrist that there may be an issue with the fluid in the eye; either your eye is producing too much, or it is not draining properly.

Treatment includes drops to lower the pressure within the eye, as well as prescribed medication to manage the condition; failure to comply with taking this medication is one of the reasons many people suffer from severe vision loss. Never discontinue if you aren’t getting on with your medication – consult your doctor immediately.


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