What are the different types of glaucoma?

There are several forms of glaucoma, including the following:
  • Open-angle. In this most common form of glaucoma, the angle where the cornea and the iris meet is open, but the aqueous humor fluid passes too slowly through the meshwork drain. As a result, the pressure in the eye gradually increases. This compresses cells in the optic nerve. If left untreated, the compression eventually kills the optic nerve cells, causing blindness.
  • Normal-tension. Some people with normal eye pressure develop glaucoma, a disease known as low-tension or normal-tension glaucoma (NTG). In this form of the disease, eye pressures are within the normal range, but the optic nerve progressively deteriorates.
  • Pigment dispersion syndrome affects young myopic individuals. Glaucoma occurs when grains of pigment from the back of the iris flake off into the aqueous humor, eventually clogging the drainage meshwork and raising eye pressure. The syndrome produces no noticeable symptoms but can be detected and monitored in routine eye examinations.
  • Angle-closure. Angle-closure glaucoma occurs in two forms: acute and chronic. The acute kind can be a sudden, painful attack requiring emergency treatment. The chronic version occurs over time, producing no recognizable symptoms before vision is lost.
  • Pseudoexfoliation glaucoma occurs when a whitish material, often found on all surfaces of the eye, causes clogging of the eye's drainage meshwork and increases the intraocular pressure. While pseudoexfoliation glaucoma causes no noticeable symptoms, it can be detected through a routine exam.
Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma. This is the most common form of glaucoma in the United States.
The risk of developing primary open-angle glaucoma increases with age. The drainage angle of the eye becomes less efficient over time, and pressure within the eye gradually increases, which can damage the optic nerve. In some patients, the optic nerve becomes sensitive even to normal eye pressure and is at risk for damage. Treatment is necessary to prevent further vision loss.
Typically, open-angle glaucoma has no symptoms in its early stages, and vision remains normal. As the optic nerve becomes more damaged, blank spots begin to appear in your field of vision. You typically won’t notice these blank spots in your day-to-day activities until the optic nerve is significantly damaged and these spots become large. If all the optic nerve fibers die, blindness results.
Closed-Angle Glaucoma. Some eyes are formed with the iris (the colored part of the eye) too close to the drainage angle. In these eyes, which are often small and farsighted, the iris can be pushed forward, blocking the drainage channel completely. Since the fluid cannot exit the eye, pressure inside the eye builds rapidly and causes an acute closed-angle attack.
Symptoms may include:
  • Blurred vision
  • Severe eye pain
  • Headache
  • Rainbow-colored halos around lights
  • Nausea and vomiting
This is a true eye emergency. If you have any of these symptoms, call your ophthalmologist immediately. Unless this type of glaucoma is treated quickly, blindness can result.
Two-thirds of those with closed-angle glaucoma develop it slowly without any symptoms prior to an attack. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.