Types of Glaucoma and the Risk Factors

Glaucoma is a “multifactorial chronic disease of the eye leading to a characteristic optic neuropathy which results in permanent loss of vision.” Wow, that’s a mouthful! Basically, there are two main types of glaucoma. The common kind is called chronic open angle glaucoma which makes up about 98% of the glaucoma we see. The other kind is called narrow angle glaucoma and it occurs about 2% of the time.

Two percent of people 50 years old have glaucoma and the percentage goes up every decade. At 80 years of age, 16% of the population will have glaucoma — affecting 2.2 million Americans only half of whom know they have it. It must be detected early so that it can be treated to prevent vision loss. Vision lost to glaucoma cannot be regained.

Risk factors are: age over 55; thinner corneas; larger, hollowed out areas in the optic nerve head; and higher ocular pressure. If you have one of these risk factors, you may be at risk for glaucoma. If you have more than one risk factor, and especially if you have higher pressures, you may be at significant risk for loss of nerve tissue that takes away eyesight.

With glaucoma, you will not notice any symptoms. You cannot “feel” increased pressures in the eye and it does not initially affect your vision in the same way as cataracts or macular degeneration. Late in the disease, after much damage is done that could have been prevented, dark areas of peripheral vision may be noticed. The only way to know if you are at risk of losing your sight to glaucoma is to have a thorough eye examination by your ophthalmologist. Particularly if you are over 55, an annual exam is important. If you are concerned about your vision, please make an appointment to see us today.