Glaucoma is the most common cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. Many patients with glaucoma are asymptomatic early in the disease course. Primary care clinicians should know which patients to refer to an eye care professional for a complete eye examination to check for signs of glaucoma and to determine what systemic conditions or medications can increase a patient’s risk of glaucoma. Open-angle and narrow-angle forms of glaucoma are reviewed, including a description of the pathophysiology, risk factors, screening, disease monitoring, and treatment options.
Glaucoma is a chronic progressive optic neuropathy, characterized by damage to the optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer, that can lead to permanent loss of peripheral or central vision. Intraocular pressure is the only known modifiable risk factor. Other important risk factors include older age, nonwhite race, and a family history of glaucoma. Several systemic medical conditions and medications including corticosteroids, anticholinergics, certain antidepressants, and topiramate may predispose patients to glaucoma. There are 2 broad categories of glaucoma, open-angle and angle-closure glaucoma. Diagnostic testing to assess for glaucoma and to monitor for disease progression includes measurement of intraocular pressure, perimetry, and optical coherence tomography. Treatment of glaucoma involves lowering intraocular pressure. This can be achieved with various classes of glaucoma medications as well as laser and incisional surgical procedures.
Vision loss from glaucoma can be minimized by recognizing systemic conditions and medications that increase a patient’s risk of glaucoma and referring high-risk patients for a complete ophthalmologic examination. Clinicians should ensure that patients remain adherent with taking glaucoma medications and should monitor for adverse events from medical or surgical interventions used to treat glaucoma.