An unfortunate fact about glaucoma is that it often does not present symptoms or warning signs until reaching its latter, advanced stages. Through regular eye exams, performed once every two years or more often for those at risk, glaucoma can often be detected in its earliest stages. Such exams can help prevent damage to one's vision. In general, the following symptoms have been observed in association with the different forms of glaucoma:
General Symptoms and Warning Signs of Glaucoma
Glaucoma causes a rapid buildup of intraocular pressure, which may lead to any of the following:
- Cloudy or haloed vision
- Nausea or headaches
- Light sensitivity (photophobia)
- Excessive blinking (blepharospasm)
- Crossed or out-turned eyes (strabismus)
- One eye becoming larger than the other
- Excessive tearing (epiphora)
- Decreased vision (amblyopia)
Learn more about the specific types of glaucoma and the signs and symptoms these conditions produce by reading the sections below.
Open-Angle Glaucoma Symptoms
The most common form of glaucoma, open-angle glaucoma does not present signs and symptoms at first. Eventually, however, the patient will begin to lose his or her peripheral vision. Because this damage is irreversible, it is extremely important to detect the condition early on through a glaucoma test. If left untreated, open-angle glaucoma will lead to a total loss of vision. Open-angle glaucoma generally affects both eyes; it begins by damaging the nerve fibers that are necessary for peripheral vision. People with advanced open-angle glaucoma can have 20/20 vision when looking straight ahead but may have blind spots (scotomas) for images located outside the center of the visual field. Eventually, the fibers needed for central vision may be lost as well, causing total blindness.
Closed-Angle Glaucoma Symptoms
Closed-angle glaucoma occurs when the iris blocks intraocular fluid from draining properly. Closed-angle glaucoma may progress gradually without manifesting any symptoms until long after it has set in. Unlike the open-angle form, closed-angle glaucoma sometimes also occurs as acute attacks, as IOP rises rapidly to a dangerous level. A specific form of closed-angle glaucoma called acute glaucoma progresses rapidly, and produces symptoms of severe eye pain, headache, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, and halos. If not treated within hours, acute closed-angle glaucoma can result in permanent vision loss.
Normal-Tension Glaucoma Symptoms
Normal-tension glaucoma, also known as low-tension glaucoma, is a unique condition in which optic nerve damage and vision loss occurs despite normal intraocular pressure (IOP). Normal-tension glaucoma may result in the loss of peripheral vision. The condition is more common in women than in men and affects adults averaging 60 years old. A common risk factor for normal-tension glaucoma is low blood pressure.
Congenital Glaucoma Symptoms
An infant or young child who has congenital glaucoma may exhibit cloudy corneas, sensitivity to light, excessive tearing, and eyelid spasm. Congenital glaucoma can be difficult to recognize because children often have trouble discerning the signs and symptoms. Consult a pediatric optician if you notice a cloudy, white, hazy, enlarged, or protruding eye. Congenital glaucoma is more common in boys than girls. A pediatric optician can help you diagnose congenital glaucoma symptoms and arrange treatment.
Find a Glaucoma Specialist Near You
Although there is no cure for glaucoma, there are available treatments that can dramatically slow or temporarily halt the degeneration. Glaucoma can be treated through either medication or surgery; either treatment is intended to lower intraocular eye pressure. Medications are considered to be the first line in glaucoma treatment. If medication fails, glaucoma surgery will be considered. If you exhibit glaucoma signs and symptoms, DocShop can locate a skilled eye care specialist in your area that can diagnose and treat your condition.