Authored by Revere Health

What is Glaucoma?

January 26, 2017 | Ophthalmology

The eyes are fragile parts of the body with many working parts, and it’s easy for problems to develop if even one small part of your eye is damaged. One common eye condition is called glaucoma.

Glaucoma causes damage to the optic nerve in the eye, generally through pressure that builds up over time. This pressure is called intraocular pressure. The optic nerve sends images to the brain after they’ve been processed by the eyes, so any damage to it prevents the brain from being able to properly break down the images. Glaucoma usually affects both eyes, though it’s usually worse or more noticeable in one eye.

Here’s a look at the causes, types and treatments for glaucoma.


Causes of Glaucoma

There’s liquid in the front of every healthy human eye known as the aqueous humor, and it normally flows out of your eyes through a mesh channel. Glaucoma can begin development when this channel is blocked and the liquid builds up in the eye.

Fluid buildup is the most common cause of glaucoma, but there are other causes too:

  • Severe eye infection
  • Blocked blood vessels in the eye
  • Chemicals entering the eye
  • Inflammation
  • Eye surgery


Types of Glaucoma

There are two primary types of glaucoma:

  1. Open-angle glaucoma: The more common of the two types, and is also called wide-angled glaucoma. In this case, everything appears to function normally, but the fluid draining process doesn’t work as it should.
  2. Angle-closure glaucoma: Also called acute or chronic angle-closure, this is when angles between your iris and cornea are too narrow. As a result, your iris blocks liquid from flowing out of the eye. It’s more common in Asia than in North America.

Glaucoma Risk Factors

Glaucoma can affect anyone, but there are several groups who can be at higher risk including:

  • People over 40 years old
  • Ethnicity: African-American (often younger African-Americans), Russian, Irish, Japanese, Hispanic, Inuit or Scandinavian
  • People with diabetes
  • People with family history of glaucoma
  • People with previous vision problems
  • People with eye trauma
  • People who take certain steroid medications



One of the curious parts about glaucoma is the fact that most people who have it don’t experience symptoms. For this reason, those in a high-risk group should be sure to get checked for glaucoma by a doctor at regular intervals.

For people who do have symptoms, they may include:

  • Pressure-related pain: Often at random times, and can lead to headaches, blurred vision or eye pain
  • Loss of vision
  • Extreme eye redness
  • Hazy appearance in eyes
  • Tunnel vision
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Halos appearing around lights

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you have any glaucoma symptoms for more than a short period of time, you should see your doctor right away. Your doctor will put drops in your eyes to dilate the pupils, then will usually do a visual and functional examination. Your eyes will be tested for their pressure using a test called tonometry, and you may do a visual acuity test where you’re asked to cover one eye and read a series of letters.

There are a few treatment options available, depending on how severe your case of glaucoma is:

  • Eye drops: Can help with fluid in the eye. Usually for minor cases
  • Microsurgery: A procedure where your doctor creates a new channel for fluid to drain properly out of the eye. Sometimes this involves leaving a tube the eye.
  • Laser surgery: There are a few different laser procedures that can allow fluid to drain the right way.

Glaucoma has no cure, but proper treatment can control symptoms and make it manageable. Anyone at significant risk of glaucoma should have regular tests for the disease. Be sure to take preventive measures; it will go a long way in preventing pain or time-consuming procedures if symptoms do become present.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms or are at risk for developing glaucoma, speak to your doctor about an examination.


Revere Health Ophthalmology offers patients the best in eye care, from glasses and contacts to treatment of eye-related diseases and conditions.



“Glaucoma.” The Mayo Clinic.

“What Is Glaucoma?” WebMD.


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.