What Are The First Signs Of Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a progressive eye disease caused by increased pressure in the eye that damages the optic nerve. It is one of the leading causes of preventable blindness and vision loss.
The good news is that with early detection, this serious eye condition can be well managed—lowering your risk of serious vision loss.
About 3 million people in the U.S. have glaucoma, but only half of those are aware they even have it. That’s because 90% of people with the disease have open-angle glaucoma (OAG), which has no obvious symptoms until it causes irreversible damage. For this reason, glaucoma is often referred to as the ‘Silent Thief of Sight.’
In contrast, closed-angle glaucoma, which affects about 10% of glaucoma patients, is accompanied by very obvious symptoms.
What Are The First Signs and Symptoms Of Glaucoma?
Different types of glaucoma present in very different ways. Because in the majority of cases, no visible symptoms manifest early on, regular eye exams are crucial—even if you think your vision is fine.
Signs and symptoms of open-angle glaucoma (OAG)
Open-angle glaucoma occurs when the fluid inside the eye does not properly drain out of the eye. The increased volume of fluid inside the eye results in increased eye pressure, leading to permanent damage to the optic nerve.
This type of glaucoma develops gradually, painlessly, and without overt symptoms until the optic nerve has suffered severe damage—which is life-long and significant. This is the reason why over 50% of people with OAG suffer permanent vision loss, which could have been prevented had they undergone regular eye examinations.
Signs and symptoms of acute angle-closure glaucoma (ACG)
Acute angle-closure glaucoma, also called closed-angle glaucoma or narrow-angle glaucoma, occurs when the eye’s drainage channel is blocked by the iris, causing the eye pressure to increase very quickly. Acute angle-closure glaucoma is common in older adults, particularly those who are farsighted or have worsening cataracts.
The sudden spike in eye pressure can damage the optic nerve and cause permanent vision loss if not treated promptly.
If you or your loved one experience any of the following signs or symptoms, contact your eye doctor immediately.
- Blurred vision that occurs suddenly
- Pain in the eye and head
- Sudden headache around the eyes or the forehead
- Nausea and vomiting accompanied by severe eye pain
- Seeing halos around lights, such as rainbow-colored circles around lights or unusual sensitivity to light
- Vision loss, especially if it occurs suddenly
- Redness in the eye, sometimes accompanied by pain
- An eye that looks hazy, with a cloudy looking cornea
- Tunnel vision, vision loss around the edges of your visual field
The best way to catch glaucoma early on is to undergo regular comprehensive eye exams. The sooner glaucoma is diagnosed, the sooner one can begin treatment to stop or slow the disease’s progression.
During the eye exam, your eye doctor will dilate your pupils to examine the condition of your optic nerve and measure your intraocular pressure (IOP) to make sure your levels are in the normal range. If your pressure levels are too high, your eye doctor will assess whether you have this condition or not.
A visual field test will check your peripheral vision to determine if the optic nerve is functioning correctly.
Your eye doctor will most likely use the latest imaging technologies, such as a digital retinal image (DRI) or an OCT scan. The DRI is a digital photograph of the retina and optic nerve and the OCT scan analyzes the layers of the optic nerve and retina. Both of these technologies allow the eye doctor to discover the first signs of this eye disease.
Even though glaucoma cannot be prevented, early detection is the best way to protect your vision. If you suspect that you may have glaucoma or if you are due for an eye examination, contact Eye & Ear of the Palm Beaches to schedule an appointment today.