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Acute Glaucoma

Why Is Acute Glaucoma a Medical Emergency?

People who have an acute glaucoma episode must get to an ophthalmologist or a hospital emergency room promptly to save their vision.
 
These attacks are emergencies because aqueous fluid gets trapped in the angle of the eye suddenly. Having nowhere to go, this abrupt backup of fluid causes a sudden increase in eye pressure, which can damage the optic nerve, eventually causing permanent damage.
 

What Are the Symptoms?

The symptoms of acute glaucoma usually surface rapidly. Signs of an attack include:
 
  • Blurred vision
  • Halos around lights
  • Eye pain sharp enough to induce vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Reddened eye
  • Feeling as if eye could burst (though it can't)
  • Sensitivity to light.
     

Treatment Options

Emergency procedures for acute glaucoma include using eyedrops and clinical eye massage to reduce pressure within the eye (intraocular pressure) and prevent the eye from hardening.
 
Once stabilized, the patient with acute glaucoma may have laser surgery (called peripheral iridectomy) to create an artificial opening in the iris for aqueous fluid to drain. Acute glaucoma usually attacks one eye before the other, so laser surgery on the unaffected eye may be recommended at the time to forestall a second attack there.
 
If laser surgery or glaucoma medications do not bring down the eye pressure, traditional glaucoma surgery may be necessary to create a new channel for the fluid to drain.
 

Risks Factors for Acute Glaucoma

Regular, thorough eye checkups can detect the risk of acute glaucoma. Risk factors for the condition include:
 
  • High intraocular pressure
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • Farsightedness
  • Asian descent
  • Diabetes.
     
Once a major attack seems likely, preventive laser surgery is usually recommended, since acute glaucoma can damage the eye quickly, as mentioned.
 

Glaucoma Types

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