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Glaucoma symptoms and signs

The signs and symptoms of glaucoma vary, depending on which form of the disease you have.

The first sign of glaucoma is usually high pressure inside the eye. Most of the time, you won’t notice any symptoms until the optic nerve is already damaged and vision loss occurs.

Fortunately, with a timely diagnosis and treatment, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to keep the vision you have.

There are also sudden-onset forms of glaucoma that can cause very painful symptoms. These are less common, but they require immediate medical treatment.

SEE RELATED: What causes glaucoma?

Symptoms of Glaucoma

Here are the signs and symptoms of each type of glaucoma:

Primary open-angle glaucoma

About 9 out of 10 glaucoma patients have primary open-angle glaucoma, also called POAG. This type of glaucoma usually doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms until your eyesight is affected.

Even when vision loss begins, it can be hard to notice right away. This is because the first symptom of POAG is often peripheral vision loss, to the sides of your central eyesight.

However, your eye doctor can detect signs of open-angle glaucoma in your regular eye exam before vision loss occurs, including:

  • Elevated eye pressure

  • Optic nerve damage or suspicious appearance of optic nerve

If these signs are detected, your eye doctor may refer you to a specialist for a more thorough examination and testing, which typically includes fundus photography (photographs of the retina and optic nerve) and visual field testing (to test your peripheral vision). These are used to track progression of the disease and make treatment determinations.

Narrow-angle glaucoma

Narrow-angle glaucoma is considered a medical emergency and needs to be treated quickly to avoid vision loss. It can also be called angle-closure, closed-angle or acute-angle glaucoma.

Symptoms include:

  • Sudden, intense eye pain

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Blurred vision

  • Red eye(s)

  • Severe headache

Secondary glaucoma

There are many types of secondary glaucoma. Each one is caused by a different illness, injury or condition.

Every form of secondary glaucoma comes with its own set of symptoms, but they usually resemble open- or narrow-angle glaucoma.

Developmental glaucoma

Rarely, children are born with developmental glaucoma, which can also be called congenital, childhood or pediatric glaucoma. It can be noticeable at birth, but not always; sometimes children aren’t diagnosed until several years later. Developmental glaucoma can also be secondary, as the result of an underlying childhood illness or injury.

When symptoms are visible, they include:

  • Cloudy eyes

  • Eyes that look bigger than normal

  • Eye tearing

  • Light sensitivity

If you have questions about glaucoma or believe you or your child may be at risk, ask your eye doctor for more information.

See Related: Glaucoma Treatment Options

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