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What Is Wide Angle Glaucoma?

Laser eye surgery can sometimes be used to treat wide angle glaucoma.
Glaucoma causes a person to lose vision gradually.
Article Details
  • Written By: Marjorie McAtee
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Wide angle glaucoma, also called open angle glaucoma, is the most common form of the eye disease glaucoma. Glaucoma causes the fluids of the inner eye to build up, increasing pressure inside the eye and damaging the optic nerve. Wide angle glaucoma occurs when the drainage channels inside the eye gradually become clogged, allowing aqueous humor, the fluid of the inner eye, to build up slowly. Acute or angle closure glaucoma occurs when these channels become clogged suddenly, often due to injury or deformity of the structures of the inner eye. While angle closure glaucoma can cause vision loss within five days, wide angle glaucoma usually causes vision loss slowly, over months or years.

Open angle glaucoma occurs most often in persons over 40 years of age. Heredity can play a role in the development of glaucoma, so that those who have a family history of the disease may be more likely to succumb to it. People of African-American heritage may be more likely to develop glaucoma, although those of Russian, Japanese, Inuit, and Irish heritage may also run a higher risk of glaucoma. Diabetes, use of corticosteroid medications, and a personal history of vision problems in general can increase a person's risk of developing glaucoma.

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There are two types of adult glaucoma, of which wide angle glaucoma is only one. Acute or angle closure glaucoma, the second most common type of glaucoma, is considered an urgent condition that requires immediate treatment. Angle closure glaucoma can occur when the small opening between the iris of the eye and the cornea becomes blocked, stopping the flow of aqueous humor from the eye through that channel.

Angle closure glaucoma may cause pain in the affected eye. The eyeball may seem firm but sore to the touch, and the area surrounding the eye may become inflamed. Nausea, vomiting, headache, blurred vision or loss of vision can occur. Patients may also see colored halos around lights.

While angle closure glaucoma can cause permanent and total vision loss within two to five days, wide angle glaucoma generally causes more gradual damage to vision. Vision loss typically begins with the peripheral vision. As vision loss progresses, tunnel vision may occur, followed by eventual blindness. Blind spots may also appear in the field of vision, grow larger, and eventually merge. While the vision loss associated with all forms of glaucoma is generally irreversible, treatment can slow the progression of the disease.

Surgery and medicated eye drops are typically used to treat both types of glaucoma. Laser surgery is often used to help facilitate the adequate drainage of aqueous humor. Eye drops containing cholinergic drugs, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, prostaglandins, alpha-adrenergic agonists, and beta-blockers are prescribed to slow the progression of the disease. If glaucoma occurs due to an underlying condition, treating that condition can help resolve the glaucoma.

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