January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the US. This condition often occurs without symptoms, but can lead to permanent vision loss if not treated. In this blog, we’ll discuss risk factors, symptoms, and treatment options for Glaucoma. 

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of diseases that occur when fluid builds up in the eyes, putting pressure on the optic nerve. This pressure can lead to damage of the nerve, eventually resulting in vision loss. It often occurs without symptoms and is not usually painful, so the only way to know if you have Glaucoma is by seeing an eye doctor for a dilated eye exam. This disease does not have a cure, but it can be managed with medication, laser treatment,  or surgery. 

There are several types of Glaucoma. They may occur independently, known as primary Glaucoma, or as a result of another medical condition, known as secondary Glaucoma. 

Primary Glaucomas include:

  • Open Angle Glaucoma-The most common type in the US, affecting 90% of people with Glaucoma.
  • Normal Tension Glaucoma-A type of open angle Glaucoma which can occur without an increase in intraocular pressure.
  • Angle-Closure Glaucoma-A medical emergency that occurs when fluid suddenly becomes blocked in the eye. Symptoms include intense eye pain, nausea, redness in the eyes, and blurry vision. If left untreated, it can lead to blindness within days. 
  • Congenital Glaucoma-Occurs at birth. Babies born with Glaucoma may be sensitive to light, have unusually large eyes, have cloudy eyes, and make more tears than usual. 

Secondary Glaucomas include:

  • Neovascular Glaucoma-Secondary to diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Occurs when new blood vessels begin to grow where fluid should be draining. 
  • Pigmentary Glaucoma-Occurs when pigment from the iris comes loose and blocks drainage. Most common in white males who are nearsighted. Symptoms include blurry vision and colorful rings around lights, especially during exercise. 
  • Exfoliation Glaucoma-A quickly progressing type of Glaucoma caused when material detaches from parts of the eye and blocks drainage. Most likely hereditary. 
  • Uveitic Glaucoma-Occurs in people who have inflammation inside the eye, usually due to a primary medical diagnosis. 

Who is at risk?

Anyone can get Glaucoma. In fact, according to the National Institute of Health, nearly
3 million Americans have Glaucoma, but half of them don’t know it. Those at higher risk for Glaucoma include:

  • People over 60
  • People who are African American or Hispanic/Latino and over age 40
  • People with a family history of Glaucoma

Some types of Glaucoma have additional risk factors. The best way to know if you are at risk for Glaucoma is by seeing your eye doctor for a comprehensive exam.

How is it treated?

There are three main treatments for Glaucoma. They are:

  • Medication-Medications are used to lower the pressure in the eyes. These medications are usually eye drops that are instilled in the eyes daily. It is important to use these medications as prescribed to avoid damage to the eye. If eye drops alone are not enough to lower eye pressure, an oral medication may be used as well. 
  • Laser Treatment-An ophthalmologist may use a laser to promote drainage of fluid in the eye. This is usually a quick, painless procedure that is performed in office. 
  • Surgery-An eye doctor may recommend surgery if Glaucoma cannot be controlled with medication or laser treatment. Glaucoma surgeries differ based on the type of Glaucoma. 

The best way to prevent vision loss from Glaucoma is by having a comprehensive eye exam. During this exam, your doctor will dilate your eyes and look for signs of pressure or damage on the optic nerve. Without treatment, Glaucoma can cause permanent vision loss. To schedule an eye exam, call or text (907) 328-2920. To learn more about your eyes, read the other blog entries on our website at

Is there an eyecare topic that you would like to learn more about? Send an email to [email protected] and your question may be featured in our blog!


National Institute of Health

Written By: Gina Stafford COA, LDO, ABOC

Posted in: Eye Doctor in Alaska, Eye Health Guide, Glaucoma, Patient Education

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