Glaucoma is a complicated disease in which damage to the optic nerve results in vision loss.
There are several forms of glaucoma. The two most common forms are primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) and angle-closure glaucoma (ACG).
Symptoms of Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma
There are typically no early warning signs or symptoms of open-angle glaucoma. It develops slowly and sometimes without noticeable sight loss for many years. Most people who have open-angle glaucoma feel fine. They do not notice a change in their vision at first because the initial loss of vision is of side or peripheral vision. Visual acuity, or sharpness of vision, lasts until late in the disease. By the time a patient is aware of vision loss, the disease is usually quite advanced. Vision loss from glaucoma is not reversible with treatment, even with surgery.
Because open-angle glaucoma has few warning signs or symptoms before damage has occurred, it is important to see a doctor for regular eye examinations. If glaucoma is detected during an eye exam, your eye doctor can prescribe a preventative treatment to help protect your vision.
In open-angle glaucoma, the angle in your eye where the iris meets the cornea is as wide and open as it should be, but the eye’s drainage canals become clogged over time. This causes an increase in internal pressure in the eye and subsequent damage to the optic nerve. It is the most common type of glaucoma, affecting about four million Americans, many of whom do not know they have the disease.
You are at increased risk of glaucoma if your parents or siblings have the disease, if you are African-American or Latino, and sometimes if you are diabetic or have cardiovascular disease. The risk of glaucoma also increases with age.
Symptoms of Angle-Closure Glaucoma
- Hazy or blurred vision
- The appearance of rainbow-colored circles around bright lights
- Severe eye and head pain
- Nausea or vomiting (accompanying severe eye pain)
- Sudden sight loss
Angle-closure glaucoma is caused by blocked drainage canals in the eye, resulting in a sudden rise in intraocular pressure. This is a much more rare form of glaucoma, which is a medical emergency and demands immediate medical attention. In contrast with open-angle glaucoma, symptoms of acute angle-closure glaucoma are very noticeable and damage occurs quickly. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek immediate care from an ophthalmologist.