Treatment and Types of Glaucoma

There Are Several Types of Glaucoma

  • Open-angle glaucoma
  • Normal-tension glaucoma
  • Angle-closure glaucoma (also called “closed-angle glaucoma" or “narrow-angle glaucoma")
  • Glaucoma suspect

Open-Angle Glaucoma

The most common form of glaucoma is called primary open-angle glaucoma. It occurs when the trabecular meshwork of the eye gradually becomes less efficient at draining fluid. As this happens, your eye pressure, rises. Raised eye pressure leads to damage of the optic nerve.

Typically, open-angle glaucoma has no symptoms in its early stages and your vision remains normal. As the optic nerve becomes more damaged, blank spots begin to appear in your field of vision. You usually 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 of the optic nerve fibers die, you will be blind.

Normal-Tension Glaucoma

Although “normal" eye pressure is considered a measurement less than 21 mmHg, this can be misleading. Some people have a type of glaucoma called normal-tension, or low-tension glaucoma. Their eye pressure is consistently below 21 mmHg, but optic nerve damage and loss of vision still occur.

Angle-Closure Glaucoma

Angle-closure glaucoma is also called “closed-angle glaucoma" or “narrow-angle glaucoma". This type happens when someone’s iris is very close to the drainage angle in their eye. The iris can end up blocking the drainage angle. You can think of it like a piece of paper sliding over a sink drain. When the drainage angle gets completely blocked, eye pressure rises very quickly. This is called an acute attack. It is a true eye emergency, and you should call your ophthalmologist right away or you might go blind. People of Asian descent and those with hyperopia (farsightedness) tend to be more at risk for developing this form of glaucoma.

Symptoms of an acute attack include:

  • You have a headache
  • You throw up (vomit)
  • You have severe eye pain
  • Your vision is suddenly blurry
  • You feel sick to your stomach (nausea)
  • You see rainbow-colored rings or halos around lights

A closed-angle glaucoma attack is a medical emergency and must be treated immediately. To prevent this glaucoma attack from occurring, people at risk for developing it are treated by creating a small hole in the iris with a laser, called a peripheral iridotomy, to help the fluid inside the eye circulate better.