The 5 Main Types of Glaucoma, Including the Causes and Symptoms of Each

© Provided by Health.com Getty Images

The health of your eyes is not something to take lightly—and yet, for the most part, we don’t normally pay close attention to our eye health until something is wrong. And with glaucoma specifically, once you notice symptoms, it usually means a significant amount of damage has already occurred.

Generally speaking, glaucoma isn’t just one condition—it’s actually a group of eye disorders that causes damage to the optic nerve, Sriranjani Padmanabhan, MD, ophthalmologist and glaucoma specialist at UCSF Health, tells Health. That optic nerve is the nerve in the back of the eye that allows it to communicate with your brain so that you can see. Damage to the nerve is irreversible and over time, causes vision loss and eventually, if it goes unchecked, blindness—that’s why your best defense against glaucoma is to catch it soon through regular eye exams, says Dr. Padmanabhan.

© Getty Images Ophthalmologists explain the different types of glaucoma that can affect eye health.

Luckily, when it is caught early, glaucoma can be treated through a combination of eye drops, laser treatments, and surgeries. But your specific treatment regimen for glaucoma depends on a few different factors, including which specific type of glaucoma you have. And while all types of glaucoma have one very important thing in common (damage to the optic nerve), there are some pretty important differences between them, as well. Here, eye doctors explain the five different types of glaucoma, and how they affect eye health.

Subscribe to our Telegram News Service
Download our mobile app

Open-angle glaucoma

Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma, affecting 3 million Americans, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation (GRF). The “open-angle” part of open-angle glaucoma simply means that the angle where the iris meets the cornea is as open as it should be, per the GRF.

Causes: The vast majority of people with glaucoma also have high levels of pressure within the eye. This pressure is known as intraocular pressure (IOP). In a healthy eye, old fluid is drained, and new fluid is produced at a steady rate; but in those with open-angle glaucoma, the eye’s drainage system isn’t draining properly, causing fluid buildup in the eye. Over time, this can put undue pressure on the optic nerve. “Pressure on the optic nerve causes the fibers to slowly die,” Christopher Starr, MD, ophthalmologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, tells Health.

Symptoms: This type of glaucoma progresses slowly and is often asymptomatic until the optic nerve has been damaged enough to cause vision loss. Loss of peripheral (side) vision, or feeling like you’re looking through a tunnel, is usually the first noticeable symptom, Dr. Padmanabhan says. 

RELATED: Glaucoma Eye Drops: 7 Options and What to Know About Each, According to Eye Doctors

Angle-closure glaucoma

Angle-closure glaucoma is less common than open-angle glaucoma, but it can lead to an “attack” that causes a rapid, dangerous, and often painful increase in eye pressure, per the GRF. It can be chronic and go unnoticed, similarly to open-angle glaucoma, if it never leads to an attack.

Causes: With angle-closure glaucoma, the angle between the iris and cornea is either too narrow or completely closed off, blocking fluid from draining out of the eye. A narrow angle can be caused by past injury or surgery and scarring, advanced cataracts, tumors, or even extreme far-sightedness, Dr. Starr says. But most commonly, genetics predisposes someone to angle-closure glaucoma and eventually, the angle becomes completely blocked, causing a rapid increase in eye pressure, Dr. Starr explains.

Symptoms: Angle-closure glaucoma can happen acutely—meaning it’s sudden and causes a quick and dramatic increase in eye pressure. Symptoms are usually quite noticeable, Dr. Starr says. “A person would know it’s happening.” Redness of the eye, blurred vision, halos around light, severe eye and head pain, and even nausea and vomiting from the pain, can be signs of acute angle-closure glaucoma. This requires immediate medical attention to fix the problem and lower pressure before the optic nerve is damaged.

Normal-tension glaucoma

Normal-tension glaucoma is a type of open-angle glaucoma where the eye pressure reads normal, but the optic nerve is sensitive to the pressure for some reason. About 1 in 3 people with open-angle glaucoma have normal-tension glaucoma, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI).

Causes: Normal-tension glaucoma is still somewhat of a mystery. Experts aren’t sure why, but some people’s optic nerves just seem to be sensitive to pressure levels within “normal” range. “The pressure is normal, it looks like the drain is working, but for whatever reason, the pressure is still not low enough,” Dr. Padmanabhan says.

Symptoms: Normal-tension glaucoma is usually asymptomatic until the optic nerve has been damaged and there is some amount of vision loss. Changes in peripheral vision are typically the first noticeable sign.

RELATED: 6 Glaucoma Tests: How Doctors Diagnose the Eye Condition

Congenital glaucoma

Congenital glaucoma is rare, affecting about 1 out of 10,000 babies born in the US, according to the NEI. It’s usually diagnosed within the first year of life, according to the GRF, though some people may not be diagnosed until they are a few years old. If surgery is done soon after it’s discovered, the glaucoma can often be corrected, and eyesight is preserved. Some people may require additional medications (like eye drops) or surgeries.

Causes: Congenital glaucoma is caused by incorrect or incomplete development of the eye’s drainage canals while a baby is developing in the womb, per the GRF.

Symptoms: Congenital glaucoma usually has noticeable symptoms, including cloudy eyes, light sensitivity, extra tear production, and sometimes, eyes that are larger than normal.

Secondary glaucomas

Some medical conditions can cause glaucoma. When this happens, the glaucoma is called secondary glaucoma.

Causes: Various injuries and conditions can cause secondary glaucoma. Eye trauma and surgeries can cause scarring in the eye, leading to secondary glaucoma. Certain medical conditions, like diabetes and high blood pressure, can cause blood vessels to develop in the eye and cover drainage areas—known as neovascular glaucoma. A condition known as exfoliation syndrome can cause tissues in the eye to detach and block the drainage system, causing exfoliation glaucoma. Pigment-dispersion syndrome, which happens when pieces of pigment from the iris break loose and block the eye drainage system, can also cause glaucoma. Uveitis, a condition that causes inflammation in the eye, may lead to scar tissue formation and block the eye’s drainage canals. Certain medications can also cause an increase in eye pressure—corticosteroids are the most notorious example.

Symptoms: Some types of secondary glaucoma cause noticeable symptoms, like eye pain, redness, blurry vision, and halos around lights. Others may be asymptomatic and only apparent if an eye exam detects high pressure.

To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter

Internet Explorer Channel Network
News Related

OTHER NEWS

Amazon Is Already Offering Major Black Friday Discounts — Shop the Best Ones Now

© Amazon Toshiba 65-inch 4K UHD Smart Fire TV, best amazon black friday deals We’re all trying to get a head start on shopping this year. There’s a lot of ... Read more »

Get 35% Off Hasbro & Nerf Guns Today Only and Save Some Money on Early Christmas Shopping

© Image by SPY.com As we head into the Christmas shopping season, major retailers like Amazon, Target and Walmart are grappling with potential supply chain disruptions. Anecdotally, our own grandparents ... Read more »

Video released of man's fatal shooting by Chicago police during a domestic disturbance last month

Video was released Tuesday of a Chicago police officer fatally shooting a man who was armed with a knife last month during a domestic disturbance call. The footage from officer ... Read more »

Navy nuclear engineer and wife indicted for allegedly trying to sell submarine secrets

A Maryland-based naval nuclear engineer and his schoolteacher wife were indicted by a federal grand jury on Tuesday on national security charges that they tried to sell secret information about ... Read more »

Every adult in NSW to receive $50 travel voucher

All adults in NSW will receive a $50 “Stay and Rediscover” voucher to use towards accommodation to boost the state’s tourism sector. NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced more than $500 ... Read more »

House Capitol attack committee votes to recommend Steve Bannon prosecution

The House select committee investigating the Capitol attack voted on Tuesday to recommend the criminal prosecution of Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon, after he defied a subpoena relating ... Read more »

Net zero attracts net stupidity and net self-righteousness

We are seeing history repeat itself in the government. The same small group of climate deniers who killed off the National Energy Guarantee in Turnbull’s years are now holding Australia ... Read more »

Airlines' fury as Heathrow passengers could see 'unacceptable' airport charges rise of 50% next year

Passengers using Heathrow next year could see airport charges rise by more than 50% next year, under price cap proposals released by the aviation regulator that have infuriated airlines. © ... Read more »

Olympics-U.S. Olympians voice concern over human rights ahead of Beijing 2022

By Amy Tennery (Reuters) – Veteran Olympians for the United States denounced China’s track record on human rights this week but stopped short of endorsing a boycott of Beijing 2022, ... Read more »

Supreme Court won't block vaccine mandate for Maine's health care workers

PORTLAND, Maine — The U.S. Supreme Court declined Tuesday to block a vaccine requirement imposed on Maine health care workers, the latest defeat for opponents of vaccine mandates. © Robert ... Read more »

Orionid meteor shower: How to see bits of Halley's Comet burn up this week

Get up early enough this week and you might be rewarded with a dazzling fireball in the sky courtesy of the annual Orionid meteor shower. The Orionids are set to ... Read more »

NRL star faces court on assault charges

NRL star and former Broncos playmaker Anthony Milford has faced court for the first time following assault charges after an alleged disturbance in Brisbane’s nightlife precinct. © Darren England/AAP PHOTOS ... Read more »

Vaccine landmark hit as booster shots near

Australia has reached a significant milestone, with 70 per cent of people aged 16 fully vaccinated protected as a booster rollout draws closer. © Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS Health Minister Greg ... Read more »

Jair Bolsonaro should face murder charges over Covid response, says Brazil's senate inquiry

© EPA Jair Bolsonaro has declined the vaccine and refused to wear a mask in public – EPA Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, should be charged with murder for his role ... Read more »

Police arrest four people over explosion that killed toddler

© Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo Police have arrested four people in connection with an explosion that killed a two-year-old boy when a gas pipe was cut inside a ... Read more »

Michael Slater is arrested over domestic violence claims

© Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo Australian Test cricket great Michael Slater has been arrested over an alleged domestic violence incident. The 51-year-old was spoken to by police at ... Read more »

Capitol riot committee recommends criminal contempt for Bannon

© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Capitol Breach Subpoenas – Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The House committee investigating the 6 January Capitol insurrection ... Read more »

New Calgary councillors ‘going to have a fire hose' of learning to do

Eleven Calgarians have a new job as new councillors following Monday’s municipal election. And like any new job, there’s some learning to be done. © Global News Calgary city council ... Read more »

Give Kuasa a chance to prove itself, says PSM

© Provided by Free Malaysia Today Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj says Kuasa founder Kamarazaman Yaakob’s days as a student activist puts him in good stead to lead a party that ... Read more »

Growing up amid the garbage of a slum village in Sarawak

© Provided by MalaysiaNow Sitting on a patch of muddy ground outside her grandparents’ house in Bintulu, four-year-old Michelle plays with a toy that she found at a nearby rubbish ... Read more »

Salah cipta sensasi di Madrid

© Provided by Sinar Harian PENYERANG Liverpool, Mohamed Salah terus memahat nama dalam sejarah The Reds apabila menjadi pemain berstatus penjaring terbanyak kelab dalam saingan Liga Juara-Juara ketika membantu kelabnya ... Read more »

Bangladesh violence: VHP to hold nationwide protests today

© Provided by Hindustan Times Bangladeshi Hindus stage a demonstration in Dhaka on October 18, 2021 to protest against the fresh religious violence against Hindus in the country. (Photo by ... Read more »

Govt's action plan: More information & technology officers, GIS-based planning

© Provided by The Indian Express THE APPOINTMENT of more Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) as data is not being used efficiently; using Geographic Information System ... Read more »

Logansport man arrested for allegedly hitting officer

Oct. 19—Logansport police arrested a man Monday who allegedly struck an officer while drunk. The officer wasn't seriously injured, according to the Logansport Police Department. The Cass County Prosecutor's Office ... Read more »

Gas leaks, rodents, asbestos: 10 military families in Texas sued their landlord over unsafe living conditions in base housing

© Provided by Business Insider Vacant homes dot the landscape in the Medina Annex at the Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, where some families say they still wait ... Read more »

Alyssa Milano arrested during voting rights protest outside of the White House

Alyssa Milano was arrested on Tuesday while protesting outside of the White House.  The 48-year-old was advocating for voting rights.  Videos showed Milano standing outside of the White House. “I ... Read more »

Ryan Tannehill breaks down Week 6's top fantasy football bad beat

Did you suffer a crushing loss in Week 6, by way of a last-second defeat or a blowout? Well, we here at Yahoo Fantasy are here for you, yet again, ... Read more »

Sergio Perez heads to the US, Mexican F1 GPs with a hometown advantage

After a one-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, F1 returned to the United States with fanfare provided by Red Bull Racing and Sergio Perez. © Provided by NBC Sports ... Read more »

Jayapal says tuition-free community college 'probably won't' be in spending plan

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) expressed doubt on Tuesday that the tuition-free community college proposal previously floated by Democrats to be included in the sweeping social spending plan the party is ... Read more »

Biden admin backs down on tracking bank accounts with over $600 annual transactions

The Biden administration on Tuesday backed down on a controversial proposal to direct the IRS to collect additional data on every bank account that sees more than $600 in annual ... Read more »

U.S. must do more to free retired Tennessee Marine detained in Venezuela | Opinion

Retired Marine Matthew Heath of Knoxville, Tennessee was arrested and charged on alleged terrorism charges in 2020 in Venezuela. (Photos courtesy of his family from before and during captivity). Retired ... Read more »

Netflix increases prices for Standard and Premium plans

© Provided by Independent Online (IOL) Netflix SA has announced that the prices of its Standard and Premium plans will increase from Tuesday, October 19. This is will the first ... Read more »

Netflix Starts Second Half Strong With ‘Squid Game,' Movies

(Bloomberg) — Netflix Inc. posted its best subscriber growth of the year, beating Wall Street estimates thanks to the popularity of “Squid Game,” its breakout drama from South Korea. Most ... Read more »

69 kes kematian Covid-19 semalam

© Provided by Free Malaysia Today Tiada kes kematian direkodkan di Kedah, Terengganu, Labuan dan Putrajaya. PETALING JAYA: Kementerian Kesihatan melaporkan 69 kes kematian Covid-19 semalam. Menurut pangkalan data GitHub, ... Read more »

N Korea confirms test of ‘new type' submarine-launched missile

© Provided by Al Jazeera A new submarine-launched ballistic missile is seen during a test in this undated photo released on October 19, 2021 by North Korea’s Korean Central News ... Read more »

Cole describes Foden's display for Man City in as a 'masterclass'

© Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo Joe Cole has praised Phil Foden after the Manchester City star produced a ‘masterclass’ in their 5-1 victory over Club Brugge. The 21-year-old ... Read more »

Boost for Buddhist pilgrimage: PM Modi to inaugurate Kushinagar airport today

© Provided by Hindustan Times Uttar Pradesh: A view of the Kushinagar International Airport that is scheduled to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 20, in Kushinagar.  ... Read more »

CNN's John King reveals he has MS in attack on vaccine critics

—@JohnKingCNN: “I'm going to share a secret I've never shared before: I am immunocompromised. I have multiple sclerosis. So I'm grateful you're all vaccinated….” pic.twitter.com/7vOk2CxXRP — Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) October ... Read more »

Tragic tale of $10million lotto winner fatally injected with painkillers by husband in revenge for ‘squandering cash'

A LOTTERY winner was killed by her doctor husband who injected her with painkillers after he accused her of squandering the cash. Joseph Roncaioli, 72, was found guilty of the ... Read more »