Early symptoms of glaucoma

Symptoms of glaucoma

The early symptoms of glaucoma depend on which form of the disease the patient is experiencing. Even though generally speaking glaucoma is actually an umbrella term for a group of eye disorders, there are two main types of the condition; namely, primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) and angle-closure glaucoma (ACG). The former and most common form (90% of all cases) is particularly dangerous because it has the potential of being asymptomatic until considerable and irreversible loss of vision has taken place. Therefore, the best way to prevent glaucoma is to go for routine eye examinations. Nevertheless, it does pay off as well to keep an eye out for symptoms, so to speak.

Early glaucoma symptoms

Primary open-angle glaucoma

Angle-closure glaucoma

·         Progressive loss of peripheral vision, typically in both eyes.

·         Tunnel vision (advanced stages).

·         Eye pain.

·         Headache.

·         Nausea and vomiting.

·         Sudden visual disturbance onset, frequently in low light.

·         Blurry vision.

·         Halos around lights.

·         Eye reddening.


Glaucoma can be either primary or secondary depending on whether the cause of the condition is known. More often than not, increased intraocular pressure -or pressure within the eye- due to an accumulation of aqueous humor fluid flowing in and out of the eye is held responsible for the optic nerve damage that is a major characteristic of glaucoma. Thus, glaucoma can be secondary to known causes like eye injury, medications, certain eye conditions, inflammation, tumor, advanced cataract or diabetes. In such a case, the early symptoms of glaucoma can occur concomitantly with those of the primary condition.


Although they are both classified as glaucoma, the very names of open-angle and angle-closure glaucoma sets them at odds with each other. While they may not be completely opposite, they do have certain differences.


Open-angle glaucoma


Angle-closure glaucoma

Drainage angle where iris meets cornea is wide open.


Angle between iris and cornea closing.

Caused by slow clogging of drainage canals.

Caused by obstructed drainage canals.

Fluid backs up into the eye.

Fluid can't properly flow through and exit the eye.

Chronic, painless and asymptomatic.

Quick onset, can be chronic or acute, symptoms and damage are noticeable.


In addition to open-angle and angle-closure glaucoma, there are other less common forms of this disease.


Types of glaucoma


There is optic nerve damage although eye pressure is within normal range.


Children are born with inherited glaucoma resulting in not fully developed eye drainage canals.


Pigment granules from the iris build up in the drainage channels and blocks the exit of fluid from the eye.


Flaky material peels off the external layer of the lens in the eye and builds up in the cornea-iris angle.


A result of injury to the eye, either immediately after or years later.


Anomalous formation of new blood vessels on the iris always linked to other conditions, especially diabetes.

Irido corneal endothelial syndrome

Rare form that tends to occur in only one eye.


Age and ethnicity plays a large role on whether or not a person gets glaucoma, and what type of the condition they may develop. For example, Mexican-Americans over the age of 60 and African-Americans over the age of 40 have a higher risk of glaucoma. Furthermore, people of Asian descent are at a greater risk of acute angle-closure glaucoma, those of Japanese descent are more likely to develop normal-tension glaucoma, and people with Scandinavian ancestry have an increased risk of pseudoexfoliative glaucoma. Other risk factors include:

  • Higher than normal internal eye pressure.
  • Family history.
  • Medical conditions such as diabetes, heart diseases, high blood pressure and hypothyroidism.
  • Other eye conditions like eye tumors, retinal detachment, eye inflammation and lens dislocation.
  • Long-term use of corticosteroid medication.

Since glaucoma may be difficult to detect and one’s own and can lead to such regrettable complications as total blindness, it’s important to take preemptive measures and follow the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s recommendation to get a comprehensive eye exam every 3-5 years beginning at age 40 if you don’t have any risk factors. People who have risk factors or are older than 60 y/o should be screened every 1-2 years. African-Americans are advised to get routine eye exams between the ages of 20 and 39. If diagnosed with glaucoma, treatment may include medications such as eye drops and oral medicine, and surgery.