Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Eye Health Center

Font Size

Signs of Damage Caused by Glaucoma - Topic Overview

All forms of glaucoma cause the same characteristic changes in the optic nerve, at the back of the eye, and the nerve fibers. Glaucoma causes changes in the appearance of the optic disc (notching or thinning of the edge) and changes in the nerve fiber layer (fiber defects). Tiny amounts of bleeding (hemorrhages) near the optic disc may represent ongoing damage from the disease.

Other findings are used to determine how bad the disease is. Doctors classify the severity of glaucoma in the following way:

Recommended Related to Eye Health

Eye Floaters (Benign)

Eye floaters are small moving spots that appear in your field of vision. They may be especially noticeable when you look at something bright, such as white paper or a blue sky. Eye floaters can be annoying, but they generally don't interfere with your sight. Occasionally a particularly large eye floater may cast a subtle shadow over your vision. But this tends to occur only in certain types of light. Most of the time people learn to live with eye floaters and ignore them. And they often improve...

Read the Eye Floaters (Benign) article > >

  • Ocular hypertension is consistently elevated pressure inside the eye (greater than 21 millimeters of mercury, or mm Hg) but without any evidence of damage to the optic nerve or loss of visual field. Some people who have ocular hypertension may still need treatment if the pressure in the eye is high enough to pose a risk of damaging the optic nerve over the long term.
  • Corneal thickness refers to the thickness of the clear front surface of the eye (cornea). Cornea thickness, along with pressure inside the eye, helps determine your risk for glaucoma.
  • Mild glaucoma refers to optic nerve damage with a normal visual field or minimal loss of side, or peripheral, vision. If signs of optic nerve damage are present without visual field loss, the person may be considered as possibly having glaucoma (a glaucoma suspect).
  • Moderate glaucoma refers to optic nerve damage with moderate loss of vision in at least one eye. But sight in the center of the eye (central vision) is not affected.
  • Severe glaucoma refers to optic nerve damage with loss of vision in both eyes or loss of sight in one eye that includes central vision loss.

The two basic types of glaucoma differ in relation to the cause of the optic nerve damage. A simple test (gonioscopy) can help your doctor know what type of glaucoma may be present. Treatment is based on the type of glaucoma.

  • In closed-angle glaucoma, the iris (the colored part of the eye) and the lens block the movement of fluid between the chambers of the eye. The blockage causes pressure to build up and makes the iris press on the drainage system (trabecular meshwork) of the eye. The increased pressure damages the optic nerve.
  • In open-angle glaucoma, the iris and lens do not block the movement of fluid between the chambers of the eye. The cause of the optic nerve damage in open-angle glaucoma is not well understood. It may be that the fluid does not drain out of the eye normally. It may be that as a person ages, his or her eyes have more exposure to risk factors or are more likely to be injured. People may also inherit the tendency to develop glaucoma.
1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 28, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Signs of Damage Caused by Glaucoma Topics

Today on WebMD

businesswoman wearing fun eyeglasses
Slideshow
Pink Eye Slideshow
Slideshow
 
Woman with itchy watery eyes
Slideshow
grilled salmon and spinach
Video
 

Understanding Stye
Article
human eye
Article
 
eye
Video
eye exam timing
Video
 

vision test
Tool
is vision correction surgery for you
Article
 
high tech contacts
Article
eye drop
Article
 

Special Sections