Understanding glaucoma - symptoms
What are the symptoms?
It's important to bear in mind that most people with open-angle glaucoma -
the most common type - have no symptoms until they have lost a significant
amount of vision. That is why it's very important to get regular eye tests,
particularly if there is a family history of glaucoma. The symptoms vary
depending on the type of glaucoma.
Chronic open-angle glaucoma
Loss of peripheral field vision happens first, but because the peripheral
field loss of open-angle glaucoma happens so gradually, the individual usually
does not notice. That is why it is so important to have regular eye
examinations, particularly if you have any risk factors.
Acute-angle closure glaucoma
- Sudden onset of throbbing pain and redness in the eye, headaches, blurred
vision, halos around lights, a dilated pupil and sometimes nausea and
- This type of glaucoma is a medical emergency and should be treated
immediately. If not treated, it may result in severe permanent loss of vision
Developmental (congenital) glaucoma in infants
- Tearing (watery eyes), sensitivity to light, and eyelid spasm are the three
primary signs of congenital glaucoma.
- A larger cornea and clouding of the normally transparent cornea may also be
- The baby may habitually rub the eyes, squint or keep the eyes closed much
of the time.
If you notice any of these symptoms you should consult your GP or an
optician as soon as possible.
Secondary and other forms of glaucoma
Symptoms will depend on the underlying condition contributing to the
abnormal rise in pressure. Inflammation inside the eye (uveitis) frequently
causes halos and light sensitivity (photophobia). Injured eyes may mask
glaucoma symptoms if eye damage (corneal oedema, bleeding, retinal detachment
etc) is already present. If a cataract is the cause, vision will have been
markedly reduced for a long time. Doctors managing complicated eye conditions
in patients will monitor the intraocular pressure in order to detect the
earliest pressure rise.
How do I know if I have it?
Tests for glaucoma are brief and painless. The optometrist will routinely
measure your intraocular pressure (IOP) with a tonometer. There are different
types of tonometers, and all work quickly and painlessly. The air-puff test is
a reliable screening tool. Direct IOP measurements can be obtained using a
handheld device. The Goldmann tonometry is widely accepted as the most reliable
technique and is mounted on the optometrist’s slit-lamp biomicroscope. Patients
simply see a blue light.
If the optician finds glaucoma, you will be referred to an eye specialist
for treatment. The specialist will perform more detailed eye tests to discover
how developed the glaucoma is and how much damage it has done. Tests may also
be carried out to check the cause of the glaucoma.
Tell your optometrist or ophthalmologist if you have ever had any prior
refractive surgery because it can artificially alter the pressure