What is glaucoma?

What is glaucoma? Glaucoma is a condition of the eye in which the pressure in the eye is too high for that eyeball, which then leads to damage to the optic nerve. There is fluid in the eye which has to keep the eyeball in its shape and also nourishes the eye. Once the eye finishes with that fluid, it leaves the eye through special channels, and then new fluid replaces it. Sometimes there’s a problem with the egress of fluid over the production of fluid. This leads to an imbalance between what the eye produces and what leaves and there’s a build up of pressure. This excess pressure presses on the blood vessels which supply the optic nerve and the nerves slowly die off.

Congenital glaucoma

There are different forms of glaucoma. One condition we call congenital glaucoma happens at birth, so patients are born with a congenital defect, which leads to glaucoma in children. One of the conditions this produces is tearing and redness, so it’s critical for parents to know that if they have a child who has a teary eye or a red eye they need to seek medical care right away.

The other forms of treatment indeed only occur in adults, and there are two types. This is what we call angle-closure and then open-angle.

Angle-closure glaucoma

With angle-closure glaucoma, the symptoms are very profound, and the pressure rises very quickly, and patients would seek help, because of intense pain and redness and severe vision loss. This needs reversing very quickly; otherwise, there is irreversible damage to the vision.

Open-angle glaucoma

The other type, called open-angle, is more insidious and it’s, in some respects, the more dangerous type because patients are not aware they have glaucoma. There is no pain or symptoms typically until at the end when patients get what we call tunnel vision, and then, at that time, they have lost irreparable vision.

The lesson here is for patients who have family members with glaucoma to have their eyes checked as soon as they know that their siblings or parents have glaucoma.


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About the author

Leonard Teye-Botchway
Consultant Ophthalmic Physician and Surgeon |MBChB, FRCS(G), MBA, FWACS, FGCS, DCEH (Lond), Postgraduate Diploma in Cataracts and Refractive Surgery

I am Leonard Teye-Botchway and I am the Medical Director and Consultant Ophthalmologist at Bermuda International Institute of Ophthalmology in Bermuda. The joy and elation I get from seeing patients who are very happy they can see after surgery is almost unimaginable. This is what really drives me to carry on being an ophthalmologist.

We have sourced some or all of the content on this page from The American Academy of Ophthalmology, with permission.