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Symptoms of glaucoma

NHS ChoicesMedical Reference

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Symptoms of the different types of glaucoma are explained below.

Chronic open-angle glaucoma

In cases of chronic glaucoma, there are usually no noticeable symptoms because the condition develops very slowly. People often do not realise their sight is being damaged because the first part of the eye to be affected is the outer field of vision (peripheral vision). Vision is lost from the outer rim of the eye, slowly working inwards towards the centre.

Changes in vision are often linked to getting older, which is why it is so important to have your eyes checked regularly. You should have an eye test at least every two years, or more frequently if your optometrist (healthcare professional who tests sight) recommends it.

Acute angle-closure glaucoma

Acute angle-closure glaucoma develops rapidly. Symptoms are often severe. They include:

  • intense pain
  • redness of the eye
  • headache
  • tender eye area
  • seeing halos or 'rainbow-like' rings around lights
  • misty vision
  • loss of vision in one or both eyes that progresses very quickly 

As a result of these symptoms, some people may also feel sick or be sick.

Symptoms of acute glaucoma are not constant. They can last for one or two hours before disappearing again. But each time the symptoms occur, your vision is damaged a little more.

It is important to contact your GP straight away if you have any of the above symptoms, because early treatment can prevent further damage occurring.

If you have symptoms outside your GP's normal working hours, visit your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department. The healthcare professionals at A&E will relieve the pressure within your eye and treat any pain.

Secondary glaucoma

Secondary glaucoma is caused by other conditions or eye injuries, such as  uveitis (inflammation of the middle layer of the eye). It is possible for the symptoms of glaucoma to be confused with the symptoms of the other condition. For example, uveitis often causes painful eyes and headaches. 

However, the glaucoma may still cause misty vision and rings or halos around lights.

Developmental glaucoma

Recognising the symptoms of developmental glaucoma (also known as congenital glaucoma) can be difficult due to the young age of the baby or child.

However, your child may display symptoms, such as:

  • large eyes due to the pressure in the eyes causing them to expand
  • being sensitive to light (photophobia)
  • having a cloudy appearance to their eyes
  • having watery eyes
  • jerky movements of the eyes
  • having a squint, which is an eye condition that causes one of the eyes to turn inwards, outwards or upwards, while the other eye looks forward

If you notice any of these symptoms, visit your GP or optometrist as soon as possible.

Medical Review: July 29, 2012

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