Glaucoma: Seven Quick Facts You Should Know

What is glaucoma? This article defines the disease and addresses its causes, types, risk factors, stages, and the challenges of living with the eye disease.

By Ability Central

12 October, 2023

A senior Asian woman sits in her living room on the couch, rubbing her eyes in pain. She has removed her reading glasses and holds them in her hand

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. While it is not curable, early detection and treatment can help you retain your eyesight.


In this article, Ability Central will answer seven Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about glaucoma, including:

  • What is glaucoma?
  • What causes glaucoma?
  • What are the risk factors for glaucoma?
  • What are the types of glaucoma?
  • What are the five stages of glaucoma?
  • Is there a cure for glaucoma?
  • How does glaucoma affect communication?


What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a progressive group of eye diseases that damage a nerve in the back of your eye called the optic nerve. The optic nerve sends visual information from the eye to the brain.


The symptoms of glaucoma can start so slowly that they go unnoticed until you have a comprehensive eye exam. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to permanent vision loss.


What causes glaucoma?

Eyes produce a fluid called aqueous humor that nourishes them. In a healthy eye, this liquid flows through the pupil to the front of your eye and then leaves through the drainage canals located between your iris and cornea. When the liquid cannot drain, the excess fluid puts pressure on the eye. Eventually, this elevated eye pressure can damage your optic nerve and lead to glaucoma.


What are the risk factors for glaucoma?

Some people are at higher risk of having glaucoma. Risk factors include:

  • Age. Glaucoma is most common in people 55 and over.
  • Race: Black, Asian, and Hispanic people are at a higher risk.
  • Genetics. People with a family history of glaucoma are at a higher risk.
  • Medical conditions. People with diabetes, migraines, high blood pressure, or sickle cell anemia are at higher risk.


How does glaucoma affect communication?

Glaucoma often causes peripheral vision loss, which means that when reading, you may have difficulty seeing words or lines of text at the edges of a page. This can result in the need to constantly move your head or eyes to focus on the text. Blurred or tunnel vision can also impact your ability to read printed and digital material. Often, contrast sensitivity can affect the clear distinction of text from the background. 


Experts estimate that up to 93% of communication is nonverbal. This includes talking with your hands and using facial expressions. As glaucoma causes blurry vision, a person may miss these nonverbal cues, leading to breakdowns in understanding and inclusion. 


In addition, using technology such as a smartphone or tablet may become a challenge. Consider switching to a device with low-vision optimized technology (like text-to-speech options and more). 


The Ability Central Portal has library of devices with a wealth of accessibility data. Try it out today to find a device that works for you changing vision needs. 


What are the types of glaucoma?

The major types of glaucoma are:

  • Primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) is the most common form of the eye disease. It happens when the eye's drainage canals become clogged over time.
  • Acute angle closure glaucoma makes the pressure inside the eye, called intraocular pressure (IOP), rise quickly. This form of glaucoma is also called Closed-Angle Glaucoma.
  • Normal-tension glaucoma (NTG) is a condition in which the optic nerve is damaged without eye pressure. NTG is also called low-tension or normal-pressure glaucoma.
  • Primary congenital glaucoma (PCG) is when high fluid pressure in the eye damages the optic nerve between birth and age three.
  • Pigment dispersion syndrome (PDS) is caused by pigment being released in the eye and depositing on structures in the front of the eye. These deposits can clog the eye drainage system and lead to high eye pressure.


What are the five stages of glaucoma?

Glaucoma develops in five stages.

  1. In stage one, the drainage system changes and leads to an increase in intraocular pressure.
  2. In stage two, there is a noticeable change in vision or eye pain.
  3. By stage three, there is a significant increase in eye pressure.
  4. In stage four, there is damage to the optic nerve. 
  5. In stage five, permanent vision loss occurs.


Is there a cure for glaucoma?

There is no cure for glaucoma, and vision loss from the eye disease is not reversible. The goal of treatment is to maintain the current level of vision.


Glaucoma treatment options include:

  • Eye drops 
  • Pills
  • Laser surgery
  • Traditional surgery
  • Minimally invasive surgical alternatives


Where can I get more information about glaucoma?

Ability Central offers a series of articles to further your knowledge about glaucoma. See:

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