What is open-angle glaucoma?

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Open-angle glaucoma: Overview

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve at the back of your eye. This can cause vision loss. Although the cause of glaucoma isn't clear, experts think it's often related to a buildup of pressure in the eye. The result can be a slow, permanent loss of vision. Sometimes both eyes are affected. Other times, one eye is more damaged than the other.

Your doctor may have told you that you are a glaucoma suspect. That usually means you have pressure in your eye, but it hasn't done damage. If you see your doctor regularly and follow your treatment plan, you may be able to prevent vision loss.

If you have glaucoma, your doctor will want to watch you closely. You will probably use medicated eyedrops every day. Your doctor may also recommend surgery. Treatment for glaucoma cannot give you back any lost vision. But it can prevent more vision loss.

Open-angle glaucoma

Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma, in which slow damage to the optic nerve in the back of the eye causes gradual loss of vision. The cause is not well understood but in some cases may be increased pressure in the eye (intraocular pressure) that results from the buildup of fluid inside the eye.

Open-angle glaucoma usually occurs in both eyes at about the same time. But one eye may be more severely affected than the other eye. At first, the person loses eyesight in the sides or outer parts of vision (peripheral vision) and night vision. Sometimes much of the person's eyesight may be affected before the glaucoma is detected.

If open-angle glaucoma is not treated, the person will continue to lose vision until total blindness occurs. Treatment for open-angle glaucoma may require medicine (eyedrops) that lowers the pressure inside the eye, laser treatment, or (rarely) surgery.

How can you care for yourself when you have open-angle glaucoma?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Use eyedrops exactly as directed by your doctor. Use the colored caps to help you remember when to use them.
  • Use eyedrops as follows:
    • Bend your head back. Look up toward your eyebrows. With one finger, gently pull the lower lid down. This will make a small pocket.
    • Drop the medicine into the pocket. (Do not touch the dropper against the eyelid or anything else.) Close your eyes for 2 minutes. This gives your eye time to absorb the medicine. Try not to blink.
    • While your eyes are closed, press your finger gently against the area between the inner corner of your eye and your nose. This will prevent the drops from getting into your nose. This is important to do because if the drops get into your nose, they can cause side effects.
    • If you are using more than one kind of eyedrops, wait at least 5 minutes before you use another kind.
  • Make sure your other doctors know that you have glaucoma. You may need to change or stop taking other medicines.

Open-angle glaucoma: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse eye pain.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You have vision changes.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.