Glaucoma

Resize text

Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve and can result in vision loss and blindness. However, with early detection and treatment, you can often protect your eyes against serious vision loss.

While anyone can get glaucoma, African Americans over age 40, everyone over age 60, especially Mexican Americans, and people with a family history of the disease have a higher risk of developing glaucoma.

Types of Glaucoma

Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma.

  • The cause is unknown. The increase in eye pressure happens slowly over time. You can’t feel it.
  • The increased pressure pushes on the optic nerve. Damage to the optic nerve causes blind spots in your vision.
  • Open-angle glaucoma tends to run in families. Your risk is higher if you have a parent or grandparent with open-angle glaucoma. People of African descent are also at higher risk for this disease.

Closed-angle glaucoma occurs when the fluid is suddenly blocked and can’t flow out of the eye. This causes a quick, severe rise in eye pressure.

  • The sudden increase in pressure causes eye pain.
  • Closed-angle glaucoma is an emergency.
  • If you have had acute glaucoma in one eye, you are at risk for it in the second eye. Your doctor is likely to treat your second eye to try prevent another attack.

Secondary glaucoma occurs due to a known cause. Both open- and closed-angle glaucoma can be secondary when caused by something known. Causes include:

  • Drugs such as corticosteroids
  • Eye drops that dilate your eyes
  • Eye diseases such as uveitis (an infection of the middle layer of the eye)
  • Diseases such as diabetes
  • Eye injury

Congenital glaucoma occurs in babies.

  • It often runs in families.
  • It is present at birth.
  • It is caused when the eye does not develop normally.

The animated video below looks at the causes of glaucoma, a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve.

Protecting Your Vision

Studies have shown that the early detection and treatment of glaucoma, before it causes major vision loss, is the best way to control the disease. So, if you fall into one of the high-risk groups for the disease, make sure to have your eyes examined through dilated pupils every one to two years by an eye care professional.

Video credit: National Eye Institute, NIH