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Glaucoma

Symptoms, Causes, Prevention, Treatments & Questions

Key Points

  • The article provides a comprehensive overview of Glaucoma, discussing its symptoms, causes, prevention methods, and treatment options.
  • Symptoms of the most common type, primary open-angle glaucoma, include gradual vision loss, particularly peripheral vision. Acute-angle closure glaucoma symptoms are more severe and include intense eye pain, blurry vision, nausea, and a red or swollen eye.
  • Glaucoma can be caused by a blockage of fluid in the eye, heredity, certain medications, and high blood pressure.
  • Regular eye check-ups, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are suggested prevention methods.
  • Treatment options for open-angle glaucoma include eye drops, medication, laser treatment, or surgery, while acute-angle closure glaucoma requires immediate medical attention and may involve emergency surgery.

Possible Symptoms for Glaucoma

1. The gradual loss of vision

The two main types of glaucoma include primary open-angle glaucoma and acute-angle closure glaucoma.[1] Primary open-angle is the most common type of glaucoma. Unfortunately, it does not have any symptoms except for the gradual loss of your vision. Because your peripheral vision is the first to go, it will feel like you are looking through a tunnel. This tunnel vision can eventually lead to straight-on vision loss.[2] If you start to notice any signs of vision loss, it is urgent that you see your eye doctor immediately.

2. Eye pain

The second main type of glaucoma—acute-angle closure glaucoma—does have certain symptoms and is considered a medical.[1] One of the strongest symptoms is intense eye pain, and it will be difficult to see out of the eye.

3. Vision disturbances

Vision disturbances are also a sign of acute-angle closure glaucoma. You might start to experience blurry or what is sometimes called steamy vision.[2] You may also see rings or halos around light fixtures, sometimes in different colors.

4. Nausea and vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are two more strong signs of acute angle-closure glaucoma. This symptom does not usually appear with any other type of glaucoma, but it is a sign that you need to get to the hospital immediately, especially if you are experiencing nausea along with vision loss.

5. Swollen eye

Your eye will start to feel swollen or even look red (swollen eye) if you are suffering from acute angle-closure glaucoma. You may feel like something has just gotten into your eye. However, when this is paired with the other symptoms, it is important to seek treatment immediately.

Top 4 Causes of Glaucoma

1. Blockage of fluid in the eye

In both common cases of glaucoma and in less common cases (such as secondary glaucoma and congenital glaucoma), the problem is caused when something slows, blocks, or otherwise keeps the eye’s clear fluid (known as aqueous humor) from flowing naturally through the eye.[2] When the fluid becomes blocked, pressure increases in the eye, which can lead to a slow, steady problem like open-angle glaucoma or a quickly worsening problem like closed-angle glaucoma.

2. Heredity

Unfortunately, doctors do not know exactly what causes open-angle glaucoma. Glaucoma begins with no symptoms and progresses gradually; therefore, individuals often do not notice it until their vision has become severely impaired. Those who have parents or grandparents that have had glaucoma will be more likely to experience the condition themselves.

3. Medicine

Sometimes, a certain medication, like corticosteroids or dilating drops, can actually trigger an attack of acute closed-angle glaucoma. If this occurs, you should seek medical attention immediately.

4. High blood pressure

Elevated blood pressure can be a possible cause of glaucoma in some individuals.[1] The increased blood pressure in the body can potentially lead to increased pressure in the eye, which can cause an acute glaucoma attack.

3 Ways to Prevent Glaucoma

1. See your eye doctor

It is extremely difficult to prevent glaucoma, especially open-angle glaucoma because the syndrome is hereditary and often bears no symptoms. However, if you are at risk of developing glaucoma (meaning if you are over 60 years old, have glaucoma or other eye

problems in your family, are of African descent, and/or have diabetes or high blood pressure), you should see your eye doctor regularly to make sure you are not in danger of developing this condition. If glaucoma is caught early, you may be able to prevent vision loss.

2. Don’t smoke

Smoking can potentially lead to many serious health problems, such as cataracts, high blood pressure, and diabetes, all of which are possible risk factors associated with glaucoma.[3] If you already have other risk factors for the condition, or if you simply want to avoid the chance of developing it, it is imperative that you do not smoke.

3. Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Avoiding glaucoma is a lot like avoiding other conditions. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which means exercising, preventing weight gain, eating right, and maintaining your blood pressure, you can avoid other conditions like diabetes, which could potentially lead to glaucoma.[4]  

Possible Glaucoma Treatment Options

1. Open-angle glaucoma

Treating open-angle glaucoma often requires the use of eye drops, and sometimes more than one type of drop.[1] Medication might also be used to treat the condition. If the drops and medications do not work on their own, laser treatment and/or surgery might be necessary, depending on the severity of the case.

2. Acute-angle closure glaucoma

When this syndrome occurs, you must get to a hospital or doctor’s office immediately, as blindness could occur within several days if you are not treated medically. Drops and/or medication may be administered via an IV in order to lower the pressure in your eyes. In some cases, an emergency surgery called an iridotomy is required.[1]

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Glaucoma

  • Does glaucoma run in your family?
  • Do you have diabetes or high blood pressure?
  • Have you noticed any symptoms associated with your vision, such as tunnel vision, trouble seeing, blurry vision, or rainbow-colored halos around lights?
  • Do you smoke?

Glaucoma May Also Be Known as:

  • Open-angle glaucoma
  • Chronic glaucoma
  • Primary open-angle glaucoma
  • Normal tension glaucoma
  • Closed-angle glaucoma
  • Angle-closure glaucoma
  • Secondary glaucoma
  • Congenital glaucoma
  • Vision loss

References

Frequently asked questions

  • What are the symptoms of Glaucoma?

    The symptoms vary depending on the type of Glaucoma. For primary open-angle glaucoma, the most common type, symptoms include gradual vision loss, especially in peripheral vision. Acute-angle closure glaucoma symptoms are more severe and include intense eye pain, blurry vision, nausea, and a red or swollen eye.
  • What causes Glaucoma?

    Glaucoma can be caused by a blockage of fluid in the eye, heredity, certain medications, and high blood pressure.
  • How can Glaucoma be prevented?

    Prevention methods include regular eye check-ups, especially for those at risk, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
  • What are the treatment options for Glaucoma?

    Open-angle glaucoma can be treated with eye drops, medication, laser treatment, or surgery. Acute-angle closure glaucoma requires immediate medical attention and may involve emergency surgery.
  • Is Glaucoma hereditary?

    Yes, heredity can be a factor in the development of Glaucoma.
  • Can smoking increase the risk of Glaucoma?

    Yes, smoking can increase the risk of Glaucoma, and quitting smoking is one of the recommended prevention methods.
  • Can high blood pressure lead to Glaucoma?

    Yes, high blood pressure can contribute to the development of Glaucoma.
  • What is the difference between open-angle and acute-angle closure Glaucoma?

    The main difference lies in the symptoms and the severity. Open-angle Glaucoma typically causes gradual vision loss, particularly in peripheral vision. Acute-angle closure Glaucoma symptoms are more severe and include intense eye pain, blurry vision, nausea, and a red or swollen eye. This type requires immediate medical attention.

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