What Is the First Sign of Glaucoma?

  • Medical Author: Robert J. Noecker, MD
  • Medical Editor: Richard W. Allinson, MD

Ask a Doctor

My grandfather’s ophthalmologist recently diagnosed him with glaucoma. I’m a black man, and I know African Americans are at higher risk for glaucoma. I also know it can be hereditary. I want to be sure I don’t miss any symptoms so I can get treatment right away. What’s the first sign of glaucoma?

Doctor’s Response

In most cases, the best prevention for glaucoma is early detection. If detected early, vision loss and blindness may be prevented. Anyone older than 20 years should have a glaucoma screening. Periodic eye examinations are indicated for the rest of your life to help prevent and identify glaucoma, especially if you have certain risk factors such as being an African American or having a family history of glaucoma.

Most people with glaucoma do not notice symptoms until they begin to have significant vision loss. As optic nerve fibers are damaged by glaucoma, small blind spots may begin to develop, usually in the peripheral or side vision. If the entire optic nerve is destroyed, blindness results.

Other symptoms usually are related to sudden increases in IOP, particularly with acute angle-closure glaucoma, and may include blurred vision, halos around lights, severe eye pain, headache, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Call your doctor right away if you have severe eye pain or a sudden loss of vision, especially loss of peripheral or side vision.

Many of the medications used to treat glaucoma may have side effects, which may include stinging or redness of the eyes; blurred vision; headache; or changes in heartbeat, pulse, or breathing. Most side effects are not serious and go away without difficulty. Not everyone will experience side effects from glaucoma medications, but notify your doctor if you experience any of them.

With angle-closure glaucoma, a rapid buildup of IOP may lead to blurred vision, severe eye pain, headache, abdominal pain, or nausea and vomiting. While angle-closure glaucoma is rare, it is a serious form of the disease and, unless treated quickly, can result in blindness. If you have these symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately for evaluation and treatment in order to prevent permanent vision loss.

For more information, read our full medical article on a href="https://www.emedicinehealth.com/glaucoma_overview/article_em.htm" onclick="wmdTrack('embd-lnk');" rel="emss">glaucoma.

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Medically reviewed by William Baer, MD; Board Certified Ophthalmology


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