Glaucoma causes progressive and permanent vision loss due to a buildup of fluid pressure in the eyeball. The disease presents itself in two common forms—primary open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma. Unfortunately, both have their own unique and subtle set of symptoms, in which the unaffected eye counterbalances the vision loss in the affected eye.
Primary open-angle glaucoma, the most common type, begins at the peripheral working inward to incapacitate central vision, and leading to tunnel vision. While acute angle-closure glaucoma (also called chronic angle-closure or narrow-angle glaucoma) causes blurred vision with halo effects around eyes. Both types cause the irreversible and gradual damage of the optic nerve (the mechanism that sends visual information from retina to brain). The slow decline of sight often means the condition isn’t diagnosed until the advanced stage.
You can prevent glaucoma with regular optical exams (with a visual field test) and also by remaining watchful of these eight subtle warning signs…
1. Eye Pain
The onset of sudden eye pain and headaches behind the eyes and brow are primary signs of late stage acute angle-closure glaucoma. The term “acute” refers to the sudden and irreversible damage to the optic nerve. If you experience eye pain, seek treatment immediately to prevent more severe vision loss and even blindness.
2. Eye Ball Changes
It’s difficult to see the damage of glaucoma with the naked eye. However, patients with acute angle-closure glaucoma typically have red eyeballs with large pupils that are nonreactive to light. The cornea (the transparent eye covering that shields the pupil. iris, and anterior chamber) may also appear slightly cloudy and swollen.
3. Night Halos
Acute angle-closure glaucoma often causes a colored rainbow affect or night vision issues such as halos (or starbursts) and blurred vision around lights. This can be problematic for drivers with glaucoma who feel extreme pressure and sudden blindness as the pupil opens, especially at night or in low-lit environments.
4. Tunnel Vision
Primary open-angle glaucoma typically presents with a slow narrowing of the patient’s peripheral vision (causing tunnel vision) and interrupting the edges of the field of view in both eyes. Many glaucoma patients don’t realize there’s an issue until their sight is limited to what’s directly (not in the peripheral) in front of them in the advanced stages of the disease.
5. Blurred Vision
Acute angle-closure glaucoma will cause a gradual decline in sharpness of vision (or visual acuity). Severe blurring isn’t evident until the latter stages of the disease. Tragically, often by that time, significant vision damage is irreversible, even with surgery.
6. Eye Swelling and Redness
Acute angle-closure glaucoma shows few signs. However, red eye and headaches may indicate swollen irises due to eye pressure build-up. By the time the eyes become obviously red and swollen, immediate emergency treatment will be necessary. Eye redness can also occur from the chronic use of eye drops.
Nausea and vomiting often result when vision is distorted. However, acute angle-closure causes nausea and vomiting accompanied by severe eye pain, which slightly distinguishes symptoms from the stomach flu or other gastro-intestinal ailments.
8. Sudden Visual Disturbance
Unfortunately, sudden visual disturbance in one or both eyes can signal several eye problems—including retinal damage. However, the sudden onset of visual disturbance in low lighting is more typical to acute angle-closure glaucoma.