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Symptoms

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Symptoms of Glaucoma

Glaucoma results in slow progressive damage to the optic nerve, leading to a slow loss of vision. Peripheral or side vision is usually lost first, however, glaucoma can result in total vision loss if untreated.

Inside the eye, there is a constant production of fluid that normally flows out of the eye through a very small drain. This drain can become blocked for various reasons, resulting in an increase in intraocular pressure. The most common types of glaucoma — primary open-angle glaucoma and acute angle-closure glaucoma — have completely different symptoms.

Symptoms of Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma

  • Gradual loss of peripheral vision, usually in both eyes
  • Tunnel vision in the advanced stages

Symptoms of Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma

  • Severe eye pain
  • Nausea and vomiting (accompanying the severe eye pain)
  • Sudden onset of visual disturbance, often in low light
  • Blurred vision
  • Halos around lights
  • Reddening of the eye

Both open-angle and angle-closure glaucoma can be primary or secondary conditions. They're called primary when the cause is unknown and secondary when the condition can be traced to a known cause, such as eye injury, inflammation, tumor, advanced cataract or diabetes. In secondary glaucoma, the signs and symptoms can include those of the primary condition as well as typical glaucoma symptoms.

When should I see a doctor?

Don't wait for noticeable eye problems. Primary open-angle glaucoma gives few warning signs or symptoms until permanent damage has already occurred. Regular eye exams are the key to detecting glaucoma early enough for successful preventive treatment.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends a comprehensive eye exam for all adults starting at age 40, and every three to five years after that if you don't have any glaucoma risk factors. After age 60, you should be screened every year. If you are African-American or have other risk factors for glaucoma, your doctor likely will recommend periodic eye exams starting between ages 20 and 39, and every one to two years after age 40.

In addition, be aware that a severe headache or pain in your eye or eyebrow, nausea, blurred vision, or rainbow halos around lights may be the symptoms of an acute angle-closure glaucoma attack. If you experience two or more of these symptoms together, seek immediate care at an emergency room or an eye doctor's (ophthalmologist's) office right away.

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