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Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma: Understanding Your Diagnosis

Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma Understanding Your Diagnosis

Glaucoma is the No. 1 cause of permanent and irreversible blindness in the United States and the rest of the world. If you have glaucoma, something prevents the fluids from draining from your eye, which creates pressure that permanently damages your optic nerve.

The most common type of glaucoma in the US is open-angle glaucoma, which affects approximately 2.7 million women and men over 40. Open-angle glaucoma develops gradually and often presents no symptoms until your vision is obviously damaged.

Because open-angle glaucoma approaches so insidiously, the only way you can detect its effects before permanent damage sets in is to have regular eye exams that test for glaucoma. There’s no cure for glaucoma, but early treatment can slow the loss of vision.

More rare, but even more dangerous to your eyesight, is a type of glaucoma called acute angle-closure glaucoma (AACG). Unlike the more common form, Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma comes on suddenly with severe and unmistakable symptoms, such as:

  • Severe eye pain
  • Red eyes
  • Deceased vision
  • Colored halos around lights
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

You could confuse this with a gastrointestinal problem, but AACG symptoms are always an emergency. If you ever have eye pain and other symptoms such as vomiting, contact your eye doctor immediately and go straight to the emergency room.

At Eye Associates of Monmouth in Colts Neck, New Jersey, our expert ophthalmologist John Ghobrial, MD, diagnoses and treats glaucoma, including AACG. If you have acute angle-closure glaucoma, you may wonder what comes next, and we’re here to help you understand your diagnosis.

Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma starts with a blockage

A normal, healthy eye produces a liquid called aqueous humor that nourishes the eye and helps maintain its form. As your eye produces new aqueous, the old liquid leaves the eye through an area called the drainage angle. 

However, if you have glaucoma, something prevents the aqueous humor from exiting through the drainage angle. The fluid is trapped in your eye, even as your eye produces new fluid, and pressure builds. This stresses your optic nerve, which transmits images to your brain, and can damage the optic nerve so you start to lose vision.

Open-angle glaucoma, the most common type, is something like a clogged drain. Some fluid continues to drain out through the angle, but not enough to protect your optic nerve.

In AACG, the drainage angle is completely closed. Usually, acute angle-closure glaucoma develops when the iris (colored portion) of your eye is positioned too close to the drainage angle. When the fluid can’t exit your eye, it builds up so quickly that your vision is at risk.

There’s no cure for Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma

The best hope is catching it in an early enough stage in order to slow its progress. Your ophthalmologist begins treatment as soon as they diagnose AACG to avoid immediate blindness. They reduce the pressure in your eye and may need to operate to open the drainage angle. 

In the emergency room, your ophthalmologist may:

  • Administer drugs to stop the production or reduce the volume of aqueous humor
  • Administer drugs to reduce eye pressure
  • Check your eye pressure every hour

They may also perform an operation called an iridectomy, which removes part of your iris to open up the drainage angle.

Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma can be managed

Even after addressing the emergency situation of an acute attack, AACG does not resolve. You must continue to take medications to help reduce the pressure on our optic nerve to prevent further damage and blindness. 

You may need to use eye drops daily to reduce the pressure, and you may also require other medications to control the production of aqueous humor. Other surgical procedures that may preserve your sight include:

  • Lens extraction (cataract surgery)
  • Trabeculectomy, which creates new drainage pathway
  • Tube shunt insertion, for drainage
  • Goniosynechialysis, which creates more space for drainage

If you’ve been diagnosed with acute angle-closure glaucoma, surgery or shunts may help you preserve your vision. 

To find out if you can benefit from the latest treatments and surgeries for AACG, schedule an eye exam at Eye Associates of Monmouth over the phone or via our online appointment request tool today.

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