Does Glaucoma Have Symptoms or Warning Signs?

Glaucoma is an eye condition that most people have heard of, but most people know little about it. Most people with glaucoma have no early symptoms or pain, making it one of the most unforeseen eye conditions you can develop.

What Is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a condition that occurs when pressure builds up in your eyes.  Aqueous fluid, which fills the space at the front of the eye just behind the cornea, flows through the pupil and drains from the anterior chamber angle.  When fluid is overproduced or the drainage system doesn’t work properly, the fluid can’t flow out at its normal rate, and eye pressure increases. If the pressure gets high enough, it can damage your optic nerve.

Your optic nerve connects your eyes to your brain. Damage to your optic nerve can cause permanent vision loss.  The result of high intraocular (eye) pressure is peripheral vision loss.  Those with glaucoma may be able to read the smallest line on the vision test but find it difficult to see moving objects to the side.

Medicated eye drops and medical procedures can slow the development of glaucoma, but unfortunately, there is no cure.

The most common type, open-angle glaucoma, usually progresses so slowly that you may lose some vision before you’re even aware of the problem.  Early intervention through early detection is the best defense against glaucoma. Having regular eye exams with your eye doctor allows the pressure in your eyes to be tracked and monitored for changes.

How To Test For Glaucoma

Because vision loss due to glaucoma is irreversible, early detection is important.  Even if you don’t have noticeable symptoms, there are ways to detect glaucoma.  Eye doctors use tonometry tests to measure your intraocular pressure to make sure it is in a normal range. They compare the results to previous examinations and expected pressure levels.

To check for pressure, numbing drops will be instilled into both eyes and then a painless small device will touch your eye.  If your eyes’ pressure is too high, your eye doctor will discuss vision loss prevention measures with you.

Glaucoma Types

Open-Angle Glaucoma

The most common type of glaucoma is open-angle glaucoma. Open-angle means there is a partial block in the drainage angle in your eye, which slowly builds pressure.  Typically, there aren’t any symptoms in its early stages and vision remains normal.  With time, the optic nerve becomes more damaged and vision loss becomes more apparent.  The risk of developing open-angle glaucoma increases with age.

Angle-Closure Glaucoma

If the drainage system is completely blocked, you have angle-closure glaucoma. This form of glaucoma occurs less frequently but causes vision loss at a much faster rate.

Angle-closure glaucoma has a variety of noticeable symptoms, including:

  • Severe eye pain
  • Rapid vision loss
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting

Angle-closure glaucoma is a medical emergency you must treat as soon as possible. Timely treatment will preserve your vision.

Normal-Tension Glaucoma (NTG)

Glaucoma can surprisingly also be present in people with normal intraocular pressure.  In NTG, the optic nerve is damaged even though the pressure in the eye is not very high. There are only two ways to test for this rare form of glaucoma.

This rare form of glaucoma can be discovered when your eye doctor examines your optic nerve during a dilated eye exam.  You may also need to have an OCT taken and possibly take a visual field test to find areas of vision loss.

NTG has no known causes. But people with a family history of it, people of Japanese ancestry, and people with systemic heart diseases are at higher risk.

Stay ahead of glaucoma. Schedule an appointment with VisionPoint Eye Center in Bloomington, IL, today to prevent irreversible vision loss!

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