Common Health Problems  »  Eye Conditions

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damages the optic nerve and causes vision loss.

Signs & Symptoms

For Chronic (Open-Angle) Glaucoma

This type takes place gradually, and causes no symptoms early on. Loss of side (peripheral) vision and blurred vision are the first signs. Later, symptoms include:

  1. Vision loss in side and central vision, usually in both eyes.

  2. Blind spots. Seeing halos around lights.

  3. Poor night vision.

  4. Blindness, if not treated early.

For Acute (Angle-Closure) Glaucoma

This type is a medical emergency! These symptoms occur suddenly:

  1. Severe eye pain and nausea.

  2. Blurred vision. Seeing halos around lights.

  3. Redness in the eye. Swollen upper eyelid.

  4. Severe headache that throbs.


Glaucoma occurs when the pressure of the liquid in the eye gets too high and causes damage to the optic nerve. Increased eye pressure without damage is not glaucoma, but increases the risk for it. Antihistamines and long-term corticosteroid use can trigger or worsen glaucoma.

Risk Factors for Glaucoma

  1. Aging, especially being over age 60.

  2. Being African American over age 40.

  3. Having a family history of glaucoma.

  4. Having diabetes.

  5. Being nearsighted.

Questions to Ask


Glaucoma may not be preventable, but the blindness that could result from it is. Get tested for glaucoma when you get regular vision exams. If pressure inside the eyeball is high, an eye doctor will prescribe eye drops. Oral medicines may also be prescribed.

Medicines used for acute glaucoma are prescribed for life. If medicines do not control the pressure, your doctor may advise:

  1. Ultrasound.

  2. Laser beam surgery.

  3. Other surgical procedures.

Self-Care / Prevention

  1. Don’t smoke. If you smoke, quit.

  2. Do not take any medicine, including over-the-counter ones, without first checking with your doctor or pharmacist. Most cold medications and sleeping pills, for example, can cause the pupil in the eye to dilate. This can lead to increased eye pressure.

  3. If prescribed eye drops for glaucoma, use them as directed.

  4. Ask your eye doctor about low vision services and devices.

  5. Try not to get upset and fatigued. These can increase pressure in the eye.

Do you have signs and symptoms of acute glaucoma listed above?

Do you have any signs and symptoms of chronic glaucoma listed above?


The Glaucoma Foundation

National Eye Institute (NEI)