Symptoms of Glaucoma

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Glaucoma is one of those conditions that people may not even be aware they have, much to their own detriment. Half of all people have no idea that they have glaucoma, according to the National Eye Institute.

This condition comes in a few different forms. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common of these. Early on, open-angle may have absolutely no symptoms. If this is not caught by an eye doctor, it may not be until some peripheral vision is lost, that you even know there is a problem.

Tonometer assesses patient for glaucoma

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Frequent Symptoms

The type of symptoms a patient develops depends very much on the form of glaucoma they have.

Open-Angle Glaucoma

With this form of glaucoma, affecting about 4 million Americans, the first symptom unfortunately may be vision loss. As part of this condition, the drainage system becomes clogged over time causing eye pressure to rise. This may then begin to affect the optic nerve.

But this happens slowly. What's more, any initial visual damage occurs on the sides and tends to go unnoticed. As this progresses and more and more peripheral vision is lost, tunnel vision may develop.

Unfortunately, vision loss due to glaucoma is not reversible. However, if the condition is detected before vision loss symptoms appear, there are measures that can be taken to help protect vision. This is something that can be found during a regular eye exam.

Angle-Closure Glaucoma

For those with angle-closure glaucoma, the angle between the clear dome of the eye and the colored portion becomes blocked, and eye pressure dramatically rises.

Some early indications that an angle-closure attack may be brewing include noticing blurry vision, colored halos around lights, or experiencing eye pain or slight headache.

Symptoms of an angle-closure glaucoma attack can come on suddenly. These can include:

  • Severe pain of the eye or forehead
  • Blurred vision
  • Rainbow auras around lights
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sight loss

Anyone experiencing possible symptoms of angle-closure glaucoma should immediately seek medical assistance. If the pressure in the eye is not treated, the optic nerve can be damaged soon after.

Normal-Tension Glaucoma

With normal-tension glaucoma, otherwise known as low-pressure, eye pressure is in the normal range. Unfortunately, the first and only symptoms here can be that there are blind spots in the visual field as a result of damage to the optic nerve.

If you do notice blind spots, its very important to report these to your doctor. Once the condition is identified, steps can be taken to try to keep further damage from occurring.

Pigmentary Dispersion Syndrome (PDS)

In cases of pigmentary dispersion syndrome, the pigment from the colored portion of the eye can rub off and clog the eye's drainage system. In turn, the eye pressure in the eye rises. After exerting themselves perhaps jogging or participating in other sports, those with pigmentary glaucoma may experience:

  • Halos or auras
  • Blurry vision

Anyone experiencing such symptoms should seek medical attention on this.

Rare Symptoms

In addition to common forms of glaucoma, there are also some more unusual types to know about. These may bring their own unique symptoms.

Neovascular Glaucoma

For those with neovascular glaucoma, the formation of new blood vessels get in the way of the angle between the clear part of the eye known as the cornea, and the colored iris. This typically happens in those with diabetic eye disease or those with a retinal vein blockage.

In the early stages of neovascular glaucoma, there may be no symptoms. As this progresses, however, patients may experience:

  • Redness
  • Eye pain
  • Decreased vision

Iridocorneal Endothelial Syndrome

With this unusual form of glaucoma, corneal cells can block the eye's drainage system causing pressure to rise. In some cases, these cells can even form adhesions to the colored part of the eye that can further block drainage.

Some with this condition may find that:

  • Vision is hazy when they first wake up
  • They see halos around lights
  • Eye pain

Usually this affects women with fair skin and may only be an issue in one eye.

Complications/Sub-Group Indications

Not everyone may react to glaucoma in the same way. Keep in mind that certain groups may have their own sets of symptoms.

Childhood Glaucoma

Children affected by glaucoma may actually have a variety of symptoms. Some children will actually have no symptoms. Others, however, may show symptoms such as:

  • Sensitivity to light
  • Gray hazy cornea
  • Enlarged eye (May be visible in a photo even before diagnosis)
  • Excessive tearing
  • Loss of vision

In addition to eye-related symptoms, some children particularly with acute glaucoma may experience symptoms elsewhere in the body. Such children may become especially fussy, they may lose their appetite, or begin vomiting. These symptoms may be relieved once the eye pressure is lowered.

Symptoms may be noticed in those as young as 1 month old. Three classic signs you may detect in a child with congenital glaucoma are blinking, tearing, and avoiding light due to sensitivity. The eye's drainage system in many of these children is malformed and requires treatment.

Traumatic Glaucoma

One type of glaucoma that everyone may be vulnerable to is the kind due to injury.

Most commonly, this is sports-related and can occur if someone is hit in the eye by a ball or a bat. This kind of blunt trauma can cause bleeding in the eye, plasma and other debris can stop-up the eye's drainage system and lead to increased eye pressure.

This can also be caused by a sharp penetrating injury where something like flying debris hits the eye. While initially the pressure may be low, once the wound is closed, swelling can begin and bleeding can occur, causing pressure to rise and glaucoma to follow.

Some signs to be aware of include:

  • Intense brow ache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sudden vision loss.

This may occur right after the injury or years later. It may mean that your eye pressure has spiked and you need prompt medical attention.

When to See a Doctor/Go to the Hospital

While much of glaucoma can be slow moving, if you have acute disease its a different story. Keep in mind, it's potentially a medical emergency if you experience:

  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Eye redness
  • Sudden blurry vision
  • Severe eye pain

If you have these symptoms, it may mean that the angle of your eye has become suddenly blocked. You should immediately seek medical attention since this type of glaucoma can result in blindness in just a few days.

As a rule, however, glaucoma tends to be a slow-moving condition. This means that abnormally high eye pressure will likely be caught by your ophthalmologist during a visit.

A Word From Verywell

Anyone who is concerned by symptoms that seem as if they may be linked to glaucoma of any form should seek prompt attention. While vision lost cannot be recovered, in many cases it is possible with the right treatment to control glaucoma and keep losses in the visual field down.

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Article Sources
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