Acute Glaucoma: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Acute glaucoma has several names, angle-closure or narrow angle glaucoma, but it is a condition that can be sudden and devastating to those who contract this. This condition occurs when the colored part of the eye is pushed or pulled suddenly, blocking the drainage angle of the eye. When this happens, the pressure in your eyes (intraocular pressure or IOP) would increase and even cause damage to the optic nerve. As a result, images are no longer filtered as they should be from the eye to the brain, resulting in the person not being able to see as well as they once were able to.

What Are the Symptoms of Acute Glaucoma?

Closed angle glaucoma has several symptoms. Many people may feel one or all of these at some point. This is a condition in which people need to seek attention for. The symptoms that people need to guard for are:

  • Eye redness
  • Ache or sudden pain in one or both of the eyes
  • Pain around the head that may feel like a severe headache
  • Eye feels very tender, yet when touched, there may be a hardness around it that is not normal
  • Some people develop nausea and other stomach issues due to the pain that they have
  • Seeing circles around lights
  • Vision is blurry

What Causes Acute Glaucoma?

1. Iris Plateau

This is a condition in which the iris is attached too closely to where fluid is drained. The peripheral iris tissue would bunch up in the eye's drainage angle when pupil dilates, resulting in the fast increase of IPO. Acute glaucoma caused by iris plateau would occur with the usage of pupil-enlarging eye drops during an eye exam or when pupil widens in dim lights.

2. Block in the Pupillary Channel

With normal eye health, fluid freely moves throughout the eye. However, when there is a block in the pupillary channel, the fluid cannot drain, resulting in the fluid backing up behind the iris. In turn, this can result in the iris being pushed out and causing acute angle closure glaucoma.

3. Hyperopia

Anyone can have this, but most of those who are farsighted are more likely to have it.This is a condition that is categorized by having shallow anterior chambers and narrow angles, which may increase the risk of acute glaucoma due to pupil dilation or age-related changes to the eye.

4. Other Causes

There are several other causes that can lead to this issue. For example, tumors that are located in the eyes can cause the iris to be pushed out. Other causes like swelling that is related to ciliary body inflammation and shape changing of the eye from a detached retina surgery can also cause acute glaucoma.

Who Are More Susceptible to Acute Glaucoma?

With any type of glaucoma, age is a factor. However, there are times in which young adults and even children develop acute glaucoma. Those who are more susceptible to develop this include:

  • There is a family history of having glaucoma
  • There has been previous trauma to the eye
  • Are over the age of 40 years old
  • Are regularly taking steroid medications
  • Already have poor vision
  • Those who have blood lines that include African-America, Japanese, Irish, Russian, Inuit, Scandinavian or Hispanic
  • Those who have been diagnosed with diabetes

How to Deal With Acute Glaucoma?

1. Laser Surgery

Laser surgery is very common and because of this, it is becoming one of the safest ways for glaucoma. There are two types of laser surgery that are often performed. These are trabeculoplasty and Iridotomy. With a trabeculoplasty, the tubes are lased in order to allow for the drainage of fluid more easily. Iridotomy is a laser surgery that is used on the eye to stop the volume of drainage that is being produced.

2. Microsurgery

This is a more invasive surgery option as it means implanting a new tube into the back of the eye for fluid to drain through. Though it sounds like it would be a permanent fix, there are times in which patients have to get this procedure redone. There are also some risks associated with this microsurgery, such as bleeding and the risk of infection.

3. Eye Drops

Eye drops are often the first course of treatment for acute glaucoma. These eye drops are available in numerous forms to treat the underlying cause of the glaucoma. It is vital that a person use these drops as prescribed, as not doing so could actually cause more damage to the nerves. There may be times in which more than one eye drop will be prescribed. If this is the case, the patient must ensure that he or she is waiting the appropriate amount of time between applications.

Side effects that are not related to eyes may occur due to the eye drop getting into the blood stream. This can be avoided by closing the tear duct when applying these drops. Some of the more common types of eye drops that are prescribed include:

  • Beta blockers
  • Prostaglandins
  • Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors
  • Alpa-andregenic agonists
  • Meiotic or cholinergic agents
  • Combining one or more of these eye drops to make a unique eye drop for that person

4. Oral Medications

An oral medication, usually a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor, may be prescribed to control the pressure in the eye when eye drops are not effective. However, side effects like increased chance of developing kidney stones, frequent urination, depression and tingling in the fingers and toes would occur.

For a clearer idea of acute glaucoma, watch the video: 

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