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Types of Glaucoma

Dear Dr. SerVaas,

I have been going to an ophthalmologist every six months for two years. I go every six months because I’m prone to having glaucoma. At my last visit, the doctor said my eye pressure is fine so far but that I have a rare form of glaucoma. He said narrow angle, but I didn’t ask if it was the acute kind or another form.

Could you explain the different forms? Do I need to watch more carefully for certain signs and symptoms, and how dangerous is narrow angle? Could I go blind quickly if I don’t get help right off?

Gail

We sent your letter to Indiana University glaucoma expert Dr. Darrell WuDunn. He explains:

“The angle that is narrow in your condition refers to the area through which the fluid in the eye drains out. Different forms of glaucoma are based on the configuration of this angle. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form in the USA. In angle-closure glaucoma, the iris, or colored part of the eye, blocks fluid drainage and causes elevated eye pressure. Having narrow angles does increase the risk of developing angle closure glaucoma. This can happen abruptly in an acute angle-closure attack, or it can occur more insidiously in chronic angle-closure glaucoma. In either condition, damage to the vision can occur. When acute angle-closure develops, you may experience severe eye pain, redness, blurred vision, seeing haloes around lights, and even nausea and vomiting. If these symptoms occur, you should seek emergency treatment to prevent or minimize vision loss. Permanent vision loss or blindness can occur within hours during an acute angle-closure attack. If you have particularly narrow angles, an ophthalmologist may recommend a laser procedure to widen the angle and thereby decrease the risk of angle-closure glaucoma. Regular monitoring of your condition is also important.”

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