237319 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • Open-Angle Glaucoma

    (Chronic Glaucoma)


    Glaucoma describes a group of eye disorders that causes damage to the optic nerve. This degenerative eye disease is one of the leading causes of chronic blindness in the US.
    Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma in the United States. Within the eye, fluid is made and then drained from the eye. If either the fluid is made too quickly (not common) or drains too slowly, then the pressure of the eye can increase, leading to damage to the optic nerve.
    This damage to the optic nerve can lead to a decrease in peripheral vision and may eventually cause blindness.
    Open-angle glaucoma can often be controlled well with proper treatment, and most patients who receive treatment will maintain their vision.
    si1268 97870 1 glaucoma
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    The exact cause of open-angle glaucoma is unknown. However, factors that play a role in causing the disease include:
    • Older age—Aging may cause the aqueous humor to drain or be absorbed less efficiently.

    Risk Factors

    A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. The following factors increase your chance of developing open-angle glaucoma:
    • Family history of glaucoma
    • Glaucoma in one eye—This increases the risk of developing glaucoma in the other eye.
    • Increased intraocular pressure (pressure inside the eye)
    • Ethnic background—African Americans and Hispanics are at a greater risk of glaucoma.
    • Diabetes
    • Injury to the eye
    • Certain eye abnormalities (eg, congenital defects)


    Many patients with open-angle glaucoma experience few or no symptoms until the disease has progressed to the very late stages. Other symptoms may include:
    • Loss of peripheral vision
    • Tunnel vision
    • Blindness


    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.
    Tests may include the following:
    • Eye exam with pupil dilation
    • Tonometry —a test to determine intraocular pressure
    • Visual field test to determine vision loss
    • Slit lamp examination
    • Photographs of the optic nerve
    • Examining the outflow channels of the angle (gonioscopy)
    • Analysis of the nerve fiber layer around the optic nerve


    The goal of treatment is to reduce intraocular pressure. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
    • Medications—Eye drops, and rarely pills, are often administered to reduce intraocular pressure.
    • Laser treatment—Laser treatment may be used to reduce intraocular pressure in some people.
    • Surgery—Surgery may be done to open a new outflow channel from the eye.


    Open-angle glaucoma cannot be prevented, but treatment can reduce the risk of vision loss. To help reduce your chance of vision loss caused by open-angle glaucoma, proper treatment of the condition is necessary. Since most people don’t have any symptoms of having glaucoma, regular eye examinations are extremely important, as early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent vision loss.


    The Glaucoma Foundation http://www.glaucomafoundation.org/

    Glaucoma Research Foundation http://www.glaucoma.org/index.php/


    Glaucoma Canada http://www.glaucomacanada.com/

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index%5Fe.html/


    Distelhorst J, Hughes G. Open-angle glaucoma. Am Fam Physician. 2003;67.

    DynaMed Editorial Team. Glaucoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated October 25, 2010. Accessed November 10, 2010.

    Medhelp. Facts about open-angle glaucoma. Medhelp website. Available at: http://www.medhelp.org/NIHlib/GF-21.html#5 . Accessed June 27, 2007.

    World Health Organization. Blindness. World Health Organization website. Available at: http://www.who.int/topics/blindness/en/ . Accessed November 10, 2010.

    Revision Information

  • Join WellZones today.

    Make a Change For LifeLearn more

    Wellmont LiveWell is creating a new tradition of wellness in the mountains by providing individuals with tools and encouragement to live healthier lifestyles.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease early and prevent heart attacks with HeartSHAPE® - a painless, non-invasive test that takes pictures of your heart to scan for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.