Angle-closure glaucoma: This condition can be acute or chronic. It consists of increased pressure in the front chamber (anterior chamber) of the eye due to sudden (acute) or slowly progressive (chronic) blockage of the normal circulation of fluid within the eye. The block takes place at the angle of the anterior chamber formed by its junction of the cornea with the iris. Angle-closure glaucoma tends to affect people born with a narrow angle. Certain races, such as people of Asian and Eskimo ancestry, are at higher risk of developing it. Age and family history are risk factors. It occurs in older women more often than others. When the pupil of the eye is wide open (dilated), the iris is retracted and thickened, and it can block the area around the canal of Schlemm, a drainage pathway for fluid within the eye. Blocking the drainage canal of Schlemm sends the pressure within the eye up. With acute angle-closure glaucoma, there is an abrupt increase in intraocular pressure (IOP) due to the buildup of aqueous (fluid) in the eye. The high pressure can damage the optic nerve (the nerve to the eye) and lead to blindness. The elevated pressure is best detected before the appearance of symptoms.
When symptoms of acute angle glaucoma do develop, they may include severe eye and facial pain, nausea and vomiting, decreased vision, blurred vision and seeing haloes around light. The eye in a far advanced case of angle closure glaucoma appears red with a steamy (clouded) cornea and a fixed (nonreactive) dilated pupil. Acute angle-closure glaucoma is an emergency because optic nerve damage and vision loss can occur within hours of the onset of the problem. Administering medications to lower the pressure within the eye is done first. In the past, a piece of the iris was then surgically removed in a procedure called an iridectomy to make a hole in the iris and create a channel (other than the canal of Sclemm) to permit the free flow of fluid. Today, a comparable procedure can be done by laser to create a small hole in the iris to keep the intraocular pressure within normal limits. This condition can be chronic (progressing slowly or occurring persistently) or acute (occurring suddenly). Chronic angle-closure glaucoma, like the more common type of glaucoma (open-angle glaucoma), may cause vision damage without symptoms.
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Last Editorial Review: 5/13/2016