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Most Common Types of Glaucoma

Primary Open Angle Glaucoma

Primary Open Angle Glaucoma (POAG) affects approximately two percent of all Americans, making it the most common form of glaucoma in our country.  Glaucoma affects 3% of patients of patients over the age of 50 and 23% of patient's over 75.

There are generally no symptoms associated with POAG. The pressure in the eye slowly rises without producing pain. This type of glaucoma often goes undetected. Most people do not realize that they are slowly losing vision until the later stages of the disease. However, by the time the vision is impaired, the damage is irreversible.

Risk Factors for Primary Open Angle Glaucoma

People at highest risk are those with any of the following:

  • Age older than 40
  • African-American race
  • Family members who have (or had) the disease
  • Long-term use of corticosteroid drugs

Symptoms of Primary Open Angle Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a slow progressive eye disease. Most patients who have early or moderate glaucoma do not have symptoms.  These are symptoms one may encounter as it progresses:

  • Tiny blind spots appear at the edges of the visual field (peripheral or side vision) that slowly get larger and spread
  • Blurred vision
  • Appearance of halos around lights
  • Adjustment problems on entering a dark room
  • Repeated difficulties that new eyeglass prescriptions do not help
  • Peripheral (side) vision is decreasing


There is no cure for glaucoma at this time, but the disease can be slowed or arrested by reducing the intraocular pressure. Generally the first treatment options would be medications or eye drops that lower intraocular pressure or argon laser trabeculoplasty. It is crucial to take medications as prescribed by your doctor to prevent vision threatening damage.

Surgical intervention is another option. The main goal for surgery is to create a pathway for the fluid in the eye to pass, thus lowering intraocular pressure. Click here to learn more about glaucoma treatment.

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Narrow Angle Glaucoma

Narrow Angle Glaucoma is also known as acute angle glaucoma or angle closure glaucoma. This type of glaucoma is much less common than open angle glaucoma It is also more dangerous because intraocular pressure can rise very quickly, leading to rapid damage of the optic nerve.

Is the cause of Narrow Angle Glaucoma the same as Open Angle Glaucoma?

No, the causes are different.  Fluids produced in the eye flow over the lens, through the pupil, and into the anterior chamber of the eye. The fluid then flows out of the eye through what is known as the trabecular meshwork, a spongy network of tissue. In narrow angle glaucoma, this route gets blocked. When this happens, the normal flow of fluid is restricted and this results in a rapid increase of the intraocular pressure.

Risk Factors for Narrow Angle Glaucoma

  • Hyperopia: farsighted people often smaller, crowded anterior chambers
  • Age: the anterior chamber shallows as we age, narrowing the open angle
  • Race: Persons of Asian, African American and Eskimo descent often have narrower angles than Caucasians
  • Sex: Among Caucasians, women are more likely to experience angle closure glaucoma

Whether you have risk factors or not, we will determine if you have a narrow angle as part of a routine eye examination.

Symptoms of Narrow Angle Glaucoma

Narrow angle glaucoma may produce noticeable symptoms, including:

  • Severe eye pain
  • Red eyes
  • Severely blurred vision
  • Halos around lights
  • Headaches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid vision loss

Symptoms may go away after several hours or persist until treatment lowers your intraocular pressure.  Acute angle closure glaucoma is a medical emergency. If you experience the symptoms of acute angle closure glaucoma, contact us immediately or go directly to the emergency room to avoid possible vision loss.

Treatment of Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma

Because of the potential for rapid and permanent vision loss, treatment for angle closure glaucoma is designed to rapidly decrease intraocular pressure using some or all of these treatments:

  • Systemic (oral) medications to reduce intraocular pressure
  • Glaucoma eye drops to reduce pressure
  • An iridotomy in which a laser is used to create a microscopic drain in the iris
  • An iridectomy, in which a portion of the iris is surgically removed to ease fluid pressure

Click here to learn more about Glaucoma treatment.

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