Glaucoma first causes changes to your peripheral vision. You may also have blurry vision and eye pain with some types of glaucoma. Most types of glaucoma don’t cause visible changes to your eye.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that affect your optic nerve. The optic nerve provides information from your brain to your eyes. Without treatment, glaucoma can lead to permanent vision loss and blindness.
The five major types of glaucoma are:
- primary open-angle (most common)
- secondary open-angle
- primary angle-closure
- secondary angle-closure
Open-angle glaucoma is the
Depending on your type of glaucoma, you may notice changes in how your eye looks or feels. The type of glaucoma may also determine how quickly you experience changes to your field of vision.
Because the nerve damage caused by glaucoma is permanent and irreversible, it’s essential to have routine eye exams, which include a painless eye pressure check (tonometry).
It’s vital to know the signs and symptoms of glaucoma because early diagnosis and treatment can help slow vision loss.
Most types of glaucoma have no early symptoms, and you likely won’t notice any changes to how your eyes look.
Open-angle glaucoma develops slowly and doesn’t cause any changes to the way your eyes look physically.
Angle-closure glaucoma is much less common and usually occurs suddenly. The clear cornea will become hazy, and the colored iris will bulge forward. It may cause redness in the eye.
People with angle-closure glaucoma may also report eye pain, headache, and nausea.
Children born with congenital glaucoma often have a cloudy or hazy cornea. The cornea is the front part of the eye and is usually transparent. The eyes of children born with congenital glaucoma may also appear enlarged. They might also have eyes that constantly water or tear up.
For most types of glaucoma, vision loss may occur slowly over time. You may not notice any changes to your vision at first. As the disease progresses, you might experience:
- blind spots in your peripheral (side) vision
- blurred vision
- seeing rainbow-colored rings or halos around lights
Initially, glaucoma affects only your peripheral vision, but it can progress to central vision loss. If left untreated, it may even lead to blindness.
Angle-closure glaucoma is an eye emergency. Your vision will suddenly blur, and you may see rainbow-colored rings or halos around lights. Without immediate treatment, it can rapidly progress to blindness within a day.
Glaucoma is thought to be caused by pressure building up in your eye. But you won’t actually feel this pressure. Most people with glaucoma don’t feel any eye symptoms. As glaucoma progresses, your eyes might become sensitive to light.
People with angle-closure glaucoma often experience intense eye pain.
What are the first signs that glaucoma is developing?
Glaucoma typically has no early symptoms. Over time, you may start to notice blind spots in your side (peripheral) vision. But this often happens so slowly that most people can’t tell that their vision is changing at first.
For this reason, diagnosis of glaucoma typically occurs during a routine eye exam.
Contact your doctor if you notice any changes in your vision, including blurred vision, vision loss, sensitivity to light, or blind spots.
See your doctor right away if you have the following symptoms:
- severe eye pain
- sudden vision disturbances
- sudden blurry vision
- seeing colored rings around lights
Ask your doctor how often you need to schedule an appointment. If you’re at higher risk of glaucoma, you may need a comprehensive eye exam every 1 to 2 years.
Known risk factors for glaucoma include:
- a family history of glaucoma
- nearsightedness (myopia)
- previous eye trauma
- increased eye pressure
- advanced age
- African ancestry
There’s no cure for glaucoma, but you can treat it. Glaucoma treatment aims to reduce pressure in your eye and prevent further vision loss.
Your doctor will prescribe eye drops. In some cases, you may need an office laser procedure or surgery to improve fluid drainage from the eye.
If you receive a diagnosis of angle-closure glaucoma, your doctor will need to reduce the pressure in your eyes quickly. They usually do this with medication or a procedure called laser peripheral iridotomy.
Most people with glaucoma experience no early symptoms. Over time, you might experience blind spots in your peripheral or blurred vision, but you likely won’t see any physical changes to the eyes.
You may not know you have glaucoma until you’ve lost some vision. For this reason, seeing an ophthalmologist for regular eye examinations is essential to catching the disease in its early stages.