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Common Causes of Glaucoma

Pinpointing the cause of glaucoma can be difficult because there are several forms of glaucoma with different triggers. To learn more about some of the possible causes of glaucoma and what risk factors may increase your chances of developing this condition, keep reading. 

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is often a painless optic nerve disease that can cause permanent vision loss if left untreated. Vision loss is caused due to an increase in pressure on the optic nerve that damages its delicate fibers.

There are several types of glaucoma. These conditions are grouped according to how the increase in pressure occurs in the eye. Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of this disease in the U.S. This develops if the natural fluid of your eye doesn't drain fast enough. In other forms of glaucoma, such as angle-closure glaucoma, the fluid may not be able to drain at all.

Types of Glaucoma

The different variants of glaucoma disease are identified in two different groups: primary glaucoma disease and secondary glaucoma diseases. Primary glaucoma diseases form on their own. However, secondary glaucoma diseases are often caused by a currently prevailing medical condition.

Forms of Primary Glaucoma

Open-Angle Glaucoma: This is the most common type of glaucoma. Though it is not clear what initially causes open-angle glaucoma, it is believed that pressure build-up in the eye is a part of it.

Normal-Tension Glaucoma: This type of glaucoma occurs in people with normal eye pressure. People at higher risk of normal-tension glaucoma are those of Asian descent, people with a family history of normal-tension glaucoma, those with certain heart problems, and people with low blood pressure.

Angle-Closure Glaucoma: This variant of glaucoma is also called narrow-angle or acute glaucoma. This form of glaucoma is a medical emergency. If you suddenly have intense eye pain, upset stomach, red eye, or blurry vision, immediately seek treatment.

Congenital Glaucoma: This type occurs when babies are born with an ocular maldevelopment that keeps eye fluid from draining normally. Congenital glaucoma is genetic, and signs of this form of glaucoma in children are observed immediately. These include symptoms such as cloudy eyes, light sensitivity, abnormal tear productivity, or larger eyes than usual.

Forms of Secondary Glaucoma

Neovascular Glaucoma: This type of glaucoma occurs when the eye develops extra blood vessels that cover the duct where the natural fluid of the eye should drain from. The disease is often caused by diabetes or high blood pressure, with symptoms including pain or redness in the eye and vision loss.

Pigmentary Glaucoma: This type occurs when the pigment in the iris flakes off and blocks fluid drainage. People with this type of glaucoma tend to be younger Caucasian males with near-sighted vision. Symptoms of this condition include blurry vision or seeing rainbow-colored rings when looking at lights, especially during or after exercising.

Exfoliation Glaucoma: Sometimes referred to as pseudo-exfoliation, this is a type of open-angle glaucoma that occurs when the eye creates extra ocular fibers or materials. When these materials are shed, the extra material can deposit on parts of the eye, preventing fluid from draining. Exfoliation glaucoma can be genetically inherited.

Uveitic Glaucoma: This condition is most common in people with chronic cases of swelling and inflammation in the eye, increasing eye pressure. It’s unclear to experts how uveitic glaucoma is caused, but it’s theorized that the inflammation caused by this condition can scar eye tissue, which subsequently damages or blocks the part of the eye where fluid drains out.

Risk Factors of Glaucoma

Some common risk factors that can lead to glaucoma include:

  • People age 40 or older

  • People of African, Hispanic, or Asian descent

  • People with a family history of glaucoma

  • Diabetes

  • High blood pressure

  • High eye pressure

  • Circulatory disease

  • High refractive corrections

  • Past eye injuries

  • Long-term use of steroid medications, especially steroid eye drops

Can Glaucoma Be Prevented?

There is no exact cause known to trigger glaucoma. Because of this, there are no real strategies for prevention. If you are taking medications like steroid eye drops or oral steroids for long periods of time, you may want to talk to your doctor about the risks involved with these medications.

You can also take steps to control chronic health issues that could increase your chances of developing glaucoma. This may include controlling your blood sugar if you have diabetes, lowering your blood pressure, and getting regular exercise.

Schedule an Eye Exam at Clarkson Eyecare

While the development of glaucoma can be difficult to prevent, it is possible to prevent vision loss if it is caught early enough and treatment with eye drops or laser therapy is introduced. Early-stage glaucoma often doesn't have any symptoms, but our eye doctors will be able to diagnose it during a routine eye exam.

Regularly seeing an eye doctor is key to staying ahead of the development of diseases like glaucoma and getting the proper treatment for every variant of this disease.

Learn more about the comprehensive eye exams offered at Clarkson Eyecare and schedule your appointment today. 

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