What is Acute Glaucoma?

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  • Written By: Deneatra Harmon
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2019
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The disorder known as glaucoma harms the optic nerve of the eye and potentially causes blindness. Common types of glaucoma include chronic, i.e., open-angle glaucoma, or acute, which is also known as acute angle closure glaucoma. Symptoms of acute glaucoma occur suddenly and require immediate medical attention to prevent blindness. Treatment options include medication or surgery depending on the type of glaucoma and its severity. According to medical sources, prevention of acute glaucoma and other forms of the disorder remains unlikely.

In general, glaucoma causes changes to the internal fluid pressure that circulates around the eyeball and optic nerve and helps to provide vision. In the case of acute glaucoma, this internal fluid gets blocked. The fluid blockage increases eye, or intraocular, pressure. The increased eye pressure often occurs quickly and painfully.

Symptoms of acute glaucoma may appear, then disappear, in some patients. For others, the symptoms may become severe. In addition to sudden pain to the eye, acute angle closure glaucoma comes with swelling and redness, and cloudy, blurred, or reduced vision. An acute glaucoma attack may be so serious that it also causes the patient to experience nausea and vomiting. Headaches and seeing halos around lights often indicate symptoms of this type of glaucoma.


Other tests include a visual field measurement and a pupillary reflex response. The ophthalmologist also uses retinal and slit lamp exams to check for acute glaucoma. Optic nerve imaging tests take photos of the eye inside and out.

Eye drops to reduce eye pressure usually address acute glaucoma symptoms. Other treatments involve pills as well and medicine delivered intravenously (IV). Some patients may also undergo an iridotomy, which is a laser treatment that opens the iris. This method relieves eye pressure and prevents a recurrence of an acute glaucoma attack.

Seeking prompt treatment of acute angle closure glaucoma can often save the patient's eyesight. Medical sources note that there are no ways to prevent glaucoma from happening in the first place. Only annual or biennial routine eye exams ensure early detection and treatment.


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