How do you know if you have Glaucoma?
You may have heard of the term ‘Glaucoma’ and maybe seeking more information on it.
If you are suspecting that you or a family member has glaucoma, it is essential to find out the warning signs and symptoms of glaucoma.
Staying educated can help you to prevent and adequately manage this progressive eye disease.
In this post, discover 15 glaucoma signs and symptoms, including causes of glaucoma, types of glaucoma, natural remedies for glaucoma prevention and more!
Table of Contents
- Open-Angle Glaucoma Symptoms
- Open-Angle Glaucoma Treatment
- Acute Closure Glaucoma Symptoms
- Acute Closure Glaucoma Treatment
- Regular Eye Examination
- Visual Acuity Test
- Visual Field Test
- Dilated Eye Exam
- Blind Spots
- Reduced or No Peripheral Vision
- Sudden Vomiting and Nausea
- Blurred Vision
- Rainbow Halos
- Eye Redness
- Severe Eye Pain
- Sudden Headaches
- Sudden Blindness
- Correlation between Glaucoma and Overall Health
- Natural Remedies for Glaucoma
- 4 Supplements for Eyecare and Glaucoma
What is Glaucoma And What Causes it?
1. What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a progressive retinal disease. It is called a progressive disease because it progresses gradually. In this disease, the optic nerves get damaged which have an adverse impact on our vision. In extreme cases, blindness can occur too.
Glaucoma is not curable. As of today, our medical science is not developed enough to reverse and cure glaucoma. However, there is treatment to arrest the progress of the disease and hence, preserve vision. But the damage that is already done before a successful diagnosis cannot be fixed.
2. What Causes Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is usually caused by high fluid pressure in a person’s eye. This high fluid pressure occurs when the fluid present in our eyes fails to circulate in the manner it is meant to circulate. ‘Aqueous Humor’ is the medical term used for this fluid.
This aqueous humor is designed to flow out of our eyes via a channel which is known as the trabecular meshwork. It is a meshwork-like channel. This channel can get blocked over time. Once the channel is blocked, the aqueous humor fails to drain and starts building up.
This fluid build-up is the cause of glaucoma. As fluid keeps building up, intraocular pressure keeps increasing. As pressure increases, it gradually damages the optic nerves. The nerve damage caused by this increase in pressure is irreversible.
So, what is the cause of glaucoma of the eyes? Whatever you read is not the only reason. While fluid build-up is the usual cause of this retinal disease, there are other factors as well that lead to glaucoma. They include:
- Some severe forms of eye infection.
- Blood vessels present inside the eyes can get blocked, leading to this retinal disease.
- Chemical or blunt injury to the eyes.
- Certain inflammatory conditions.
- Eye surgery that was meant for correcting some other eye condition can also lead to glaucoma. However, this is extremely rare.
Some Quick Glaucoma Facts
Okay, now that you have a brief idea of what glaucoma is and its types, let us have a quick look at some facts about this disease:
- Globally, glaucoma is one of the leading causes of irreversible vision loss. In fact, 10% of all patients who receive treatment for this disease still end up losing vision.
- There is no known treatment for glaucoma that can revert vision already lost because of the disease. Further loss of vision can, however, can be prevented with surgery, medication, etc.
- Glaucoma is not age-restricted; older adults have a higher risk, but babies as young as three months old can also get glaucoma.
- A child can be born with glaucoma. Approximately, 1 out of every 10,000 children born in America are born with the disease. This is called congenital glaucoma.
- In the USA alone, 9-12% of blindness is caused by glaucoma. In absolute figures, there are over 120,000 people in the USA who have become blind because of this disease.
- An estimated 3 million people across the USA have this disease, but only 50% of them are aware that they have it.
- In the case of African Americans, cataract is the leading cause of blindness and glaucoma takes the second spot.
- When compared to Caucasians, glaucoma-induced blindness is 6x to 8x more common in African Americans.
- Open-Angle Glaucoma causes 19% of all glaucoma-induced blindness in African Americans. Among Caucasians, Open Angle Glaucoma is responsible for 6% of glaucoma-induced blindness.
- It is estimated that there are over 60 million people who suffer from Glaucoma worldwide.
- Genetics studies reveal that of all glaucoma cases, 50% are hereditary.
- 15% of patients suffering from glaucoma have at least one sibling who suffers from it.
- Glaucoma never causes cataracts. Glaucoma surgery can, however, lead to cataract.
- Researchers are trying to find out whether injecting stem cells into the trabecular meshwork present in sclera and cornea can prevent vision loss or not.
Types of Glaucoma
Glaucoma has two primary variants:
- Open-Angle Glaucoma
- Acute Closure Angle Glaucoma
1. Open-Angle Glaucoma
This type of glaucoma is often known by another name: Wide-Angle Glaucoma. There is a funny name attached to this form. It is called “Sneak Thief of Sight.” The reason for this name is that it usually goes undetected and has no painful symptoms. Sudden loss of vision never happens in this form of the disease. The loss of the visual field is progressive and is usually associated with an increase in eye pressure.
The pressure increases because the trabecular meshwork gets blocked. In this form, the peripheral vision is lost first. Gradually, the entire vision is lost. However, vision loss is imperceptible and very gradual. The steady advancement of glaucoma is represented by the image below:
The possible reasons for the blockage of these microscopic channels (trabecular meshwork) are not really known.
Due to the absence of painful symptoms, it is often virtually impossible to identify Open-Angle Glaucoma symptoms without medical intervention.
The question that you might ask is:
Why is this form of glaucoma referred to as Open-Angle Glaucoma?
The image below has the answer to your question:
Source: Medicina Online
Notice carefully – there is a wide-angle between the cornea and the iris (as there should be), however, the drainage canals get clogged over time, and cause internal eye pressure, damaging the optic nerve.
2. Acute Closure Angle Glaucoma
This type of glaucoma is also known by the name Narrow-Angle Glaucoma or Chronic Angle-Closure. In this form of the disease, the angle between the iris and the cornea is either too narrow to allow free passage of the aqueous humor, or the iris and the cornea touch each other, blocking fluid flow.
So, what does glaucoma look like in Acute Closure Angle Glaucoma? Have a look at the image below to understand what happens in this form of glaucoma:
Source: Medicina Online
Notice carefully – the iris and the cornea are very close to each other and at one point, the two meet, closing the gap completely. This closure of the angle leads to blockage of aqueous humor, and the fluid is prevented from reaching the trabecular meshwork for drainage.
In the case of Acute Closure Glaucoma, there is a sudden IOP or Intraocular Pressure build-up. This sudden pressure build-up can lead to acute pain and redness. Also, prolonged contact between the iris and the trabecular meshwork can lead to synechiae formation.
Signs of Glaucoma
Now you may be asking, what are the signs of glaucoma? The answer to this question is not simple.
Open-Angle Glaucoma Symptoms
In Open-Angle Glaucoma the trabecular meshwork gets blocked gradually. Nothing happens all of a sudden. This blocking can take place over a period of several years. As a result of this, there may not be any early symptoms of glaucoma at all. This is precisely the reason why many people don’t even know that they have this progressive retinal disease.
The only symptoms or signs of this form of glaucoma is a progressive and prolonged loss of visual field. It may first start with just the peripheral vision. This too is difficult to spot because most of the time, the patient will tend to adjust the head position without realizing that the adjustment is required to deal with the underlying condition of Open-Angle Glaucoma.
Open-Angle Glaucoma Treatment
There is no known Open-Angle Glaucoma treatment that offers a complete cure. The only option is the management of the disease. Management usually focuses on reducing IOP or Intraocular Pressure. Researchers have found that even when IOP is in the normal range, some Open Angle Glaucoma patients continue to show optic nerve degeneration.
That means the intraocular pressure management is not always effective in every glaucoma patient. As a result of this observation, researchers have started believing that certain other pathological conditions can lead to degeneration of optic nerve, that is, there are other Open-Angle Glaucoma causes. A few such pathological conditions can be:
- Protein misfolding
- Oxidative stress
- Vascular dysregulation
- Lead toxicity
- Immune dysregulation
Usually, IOP is managed using certain types of drugs like alpha-agonists, beta-blockers, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, prostaglandin analogs, etc. Some of these drugs work by reducing the production of aqueous humor while others merely work by increasing the trabecular meshwork outflow. While few do both – decreasing fluid production and increasing fluid outflow.
Lead Toxicity can also cause many adverse effects on the eye and neurotoxic effects and many learning disorders. Lead exposure can lead to confrontational changes and modifications in the lens transparency.
If you want to read more about the influence of heavy metals in your vision, read more here:
Acute Closure Glaucoma Symptoms
This form of glaucoma has symptoms that can be quickly identified. The symptoms of acute closure glaucoma in adults include:
- Sudden and acute pain in the eyes
- Extremely high Intraocular Pressure (more than 30 mmHg). The person can actually feel that pressure
- A sudden decline in vision
- Seeing bright halos and rings around lights
- Sometimes, the pupil may become oval
- Vomiting and nausea are common
- The mid-dilated pupil is yet another symptom of this form of glaucoma
- Red-eye is also a symptom of Acute Closure Glaucoma
Acute Closure Glaucoma Treatment
One of the definitive treatments of this form of Glaucoma is known as laser iridotomy. This kind of treatment cannot reverse any damage caused to the optic nerves but it can temporarily reverse as well as prevent further contact between the trabecular meshwork and the iris. Sometimes, laser iridoplasty, incisional surgery, and medication may be used for treating Acute Closure Glaucoma.
15 Warning Glaucoma Signs And Symptoms
Now that we have learned about the types and symptoms of glaucoma in detail, it is time to look into the most important question – How Do You Know if You Have Glaucoma?
Below, you'll discover 15 ways to know if you have this progressive retinal disease or not.
Keep reading to find out!
We will divide this segment into Open-Angle Glaucoma and Acute Closure Glaucoma. This segregation will help you to identify easily whether you have glaucoma or not, and which type you may have.
Open-Angle Glaucoma Identification Methods
1. Regular Eye Examination
Let’s start with a simple question: How does glaucoma affect vision in the case of Open-Angle Glaucoma?
It is slow and progressive and often goes unnoticed. By the time it gets noticed, one could already be in an advanced stage.
Since there are no visible signs or symptoms of this form of the disease, it is necessary to ensure that you go for a regular eye examination.
Here is what you need to keep in mind:
- You should opt for a once-a-year or once-every-two-year eye checkup. If you have already attained the age of 40, you are at a higher risk of developing this form of glaucoma and a proper eye checkup from a certified eye expert will help you identify this progressive retinal disease.
- If you have or had members in your family who suffer from glaucoma, there is a likelihood that you can develop this disease. It is genetic and often runs in the family. So, a regular eye examination is a must.
- In case your doctor says that you do have glaucoma, you need to accept that some damage may already be caused by the condition and cannot be reverted. However, your doctor can help you in slowing down the progression of this disease.
- We are living in a world full of heavy metals everywhere. It is vital to detox your body regularly to reduce the impact of heavy metal toxicity.
2. Visual Acuity Test
A visual acuity test is good at measuring your vision over a certain distance. It uses a standardized chart to determine the size of the letters placed at a distance of 20 feet or 6 meters away. A Visual Acuity test can also be used to measure vision over even shorter distances.
2. Visual Field Test
Designed to measure your peripheral vision, also known as the side vision, a Visual Field test can tell how much peripheral vision has been lost, which is a sign of glaucoma. Performed by eye care specialists, these visual field tests help to detect the primary symptoms of glaucoma which are visual field defects and blind spots. The nature and size of the blind spots help in understanding the severity and progression of optic nerve damage which is represented in glaucoma.
4. Dilated Eye Exam
In a dilated eye exam, the pupil is widened and dilated by putting certain eye drops. The eye care specialist examines your retina to find any vision damage or any other eye issues.
This eye examination helps to identify any common vision problems and developing eye diseases including glaucoma.
Tonometry is the analysis of the eye pressure or the intraocular pressure (IOP) by using a tonometer to detect glaucoma. Any elevated levels of IOP are not good and need to be investigated further. Any changes found in optic nerves can lead to nerve tissue loss and ultimately glaucoma.
Pachymetry helps to measure corneal thickness in patients suspected of having glaucoma. It is used by many eye specialists to screen patients for progression of glaucoma. Eye drop and ultrasonic wave instruments are used to do this.
7. Look Out for Blind Spots
Yes, Open Angle Glaucoma can over time, lead to blind spots. What does this mean? It simply means that there will be spots in your vision fields where you cannot see things. Look at the image below:
The blind spots are areas where a person cannot see anything even though those things fall inside a person’s field of view.
It may be difficult to spot blind views but not impossible. They can actually pop up every now and then in case you have glaucoma, and it has advanced.
It is necessary that you immediately visit a doctor if you experience or notice blind spots.
8. Reduced or No Peripheral Vision
Peripheral vision is also known as side vision. This vision refers to the field of vision on your left and your right side without turning your head. You can see to a certain extent on both sides without turning your head sideways.
In the case of Open-Angle Glaucoma, peripheral vision usually takes the hit first. In this form of the disease, your peripheral vision field will gradually decrease. You may even completely lose it. Your vision will become narrower and narrower until a point arrives where you can only see things that are directly in front of you (tunnel vision). The images below explain it properly:
This image below depicts normal peripheral vision.
This image depicts significantly reduced peripheral vision.
In case of Open-Angle Glaucoma, even the direct line of sight may also be lost, leading to complete and irreversible blindness. This will generally happen after the peripheral vision is lost. So, it is necessary that in case you find your peripheral vision is getting narrower, you should immediately seek medical assistance to arrest and slow down the progress of vision loss.
Acute Closure Glaucoma Identification Methods
You already know from the information above that Acute Closure Glaucoma has some visible symptoms. If you watch out for those symptoms, you can easily know whether you have glaucoma or not. Still, you should always take expert advice.
Here is how to understand whether you have Acute Closure Glaucoma or not.
9. Sudden Vomiting and Nausea
One of the classic symptoms of Acute Closure Glaucoma is that you will experience sudden vomiting and nausea. This is usually the result of increased eye pressure. Such vomiting and illness will develop suddenly and rapidly. You may also feel dizzy.
However, you need to understand that many other factors can also cause vomiting and nausea. So, if you are feeling ill and you experience persistent vomiting and nausea, along with your family doctor, also consider talking to an eye specialist as well and have your eyes checked.
10. Sudden Blurred Vision
One fine day you may suddenly have a blurred vision. If there is a sudden onset of this condition, you may have a sudden onset of Acute Closure Glaucoma.
There will be fuzziness around everything you see. If such a situation occurs, it is necessary that you visit an eye specialist immediately.
However, you need to understand that fuzzy vision can be caused by a number of other conditions as well. These conditions include:
- Myopia, which is also known as nearsightedness.
- Hyperopia, which is also known as farsightedness.
- Normal deterioration of the eyes.
Since it is difficult to say what exactly is causing this fuzzy and blurred vision, it is essential that you consult an eye doctor. If it is caused by Acute Closure Glaucoma, you can have irreversible blindness very quickly. It is illogical to take a chance and wait to see what happens next. If the blurred vision is caused by Acute Closure Glaucoma, doctors could start immediate treatment to prevent rapid progression of blindness.
11. Rainbow Halos
Seeing rainbow halos is a classic symptom of Acute Closure Glaucoma. It may happen that when you look at a light source, you may notice vibrant and colorful rainbow-like rings around the light source. This happens because your vision gets distorted as a result of the increase in Intraocular Pressure.
You can actually see these halos when the surrounding is dark, or the lights dim out. It is not necessary that the light source be stationary like a street light. Such halos can appear around vehicle headlights approaching towards you.
If you suddenly start seeing rainbow halos around light sources, it is necessary that you consult an eye specialist to find out the reason.
12. Eye Redness
Reddening of the eye is common. This usually happens when the blood vessels in the eye swell up. As this swelling occurs, you will notice that the white portion of the eye (known as the Sclera) turns red. There can be many reasons for this. Something as simple as stress and tiredness can also lead to eye reddening.
Did you know that if you have Acute Closure Glaucoma, as the Intraocular Pressure increases, blood vessels in the eyes will get swollen leading to red eyes?
Apart from that, you may also feel pain in your eyes. Irrespective of what is causing the red-eye, it is important that you consult an eye expert. If it is glaucoma, prompt actions will be taken to prevent vision loss and blindness.
Usually, in the case of glaucoma, eye redness is chronic, and it is one of the early symptoms of glaucoma. Never ignore it.
13. Sudden and Severe Eye Pain
Acute Closure Glaucoma is known for giving sudden and severe eye pain. It just happens out of the blue. It is an emergency condition and dictates an emergency visit to an eye specialist. In case of severe pain, your eyes can become sore. The pain may become so severe that you may feel as if a lot of needles are prickling your eyes at the same time.
14. Sudden Headaches
Can glaucoma cause headaches? The answer is yes. If you happen to experience sudden and severe headaches along with any or some of the symptoms above, it is necessary to get treated. Such headaches along with dizziness are a result of extreme pressure on the optic nerves.
15. Sudden Blindness
Can glaucoma cause blindness? While peripheral vision loss is the initial step of Open-Angle Glaucoma followed by complete loss of vision, in Acute Closure Glaucoma sudden vision loss can happen in one or both eyes. If you experience sudden vision loss, the only thing you should do is visit an ophthalmologist and follow treatments as advised.
4 Other Types of Glaucoma and Identification Methods
Till now our main focus was on Open-Angle and Acute Closure Glaucoma. However, they are not the only two types that can occur. There are other types as well. They are not common but exist. They include:
1. Normal-Tension Glaucoma
Normal-Tension Glaucoma is a variant of Open-Angle Glaucoma with the difference being that the eye pressure or Intraocular Pressure remains normal. So, it is virtually impossible to know whether one is suffering from this form of glaucoma without a proper medical diagnosis. There are no symptoms that will show up until the point where optic nerves will be damaged to such an extent that tunnel vision will start developing. Eventually, if left untreated, it will lead to complete vision loss.
In order to find out whether you have Normal-Tension Glaucoma or not, it is necessary that go for regular eye checkups.
2. Pigmentary Glaucoma
This too is very difficult to spot or identify. It is one of the rarest forms out there. What really happens in this form is that a chunk of eye pigment breaks from the iris. This broken pigment chunk blocks the fluid or aqueous humor from flowing into the trabecular meshwork. When that happens, inflammation is a possible outcome.
Some people have reported having blurry vision after they undergo rigorous exercise. Blurry vision for them is also associated with pain. Those people have been diagnosed with Pigmentary Glaucoma.
3. Secondary Glaucoma
Eye injury, tumors, cataract, lens enlargement, inflammation etc. can lead to glaucoma. When this retinal disease occurs because of the causes mentioned, it is known as secondary glaucoma. The impact remains the same – loss of vision can happen.
So, if you suffered an eye injury or any eye condition mentioned above, ensure that you go for a thorough eye checkup to rule out the possibility of glaucoma. If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, ensure that you follow the proper treatment regimen as advised.
4. Congenital Glaucoma
This is primarily hereditary and occurs during the first year of birth. Yes, a child can be born with this form of glaucoma where the child may suffer from naturally narrow angles as found in the case of Acute Closure Glaucoma. There may be other defects in the child’s eye drainage system as well.
When it comes to spotting congenital glaucoma, it is challenging. The reason is simple. The child may actually have not experienced any normal vision. So, the child will not even know that there is something wrong. Adults can, however, identify the problem in a child. The usual symptoms of congenital glaucoma include:
- Hazy or cloudy eyes.
- Slightly protruding eyes (similar to what is observed in case of cataract).
Correlation Between Glaucoma and Overall Health
Can glaucoma be prevented? So far, we have learned that we do not have the technology or medicines to prevent glaucoma from occurring.
All we can do is manage the medical condition and slow down its progress. One of the most conventional methods is that of laser treatment of glaucoma. There are other methods such as using special eye drops, surgery etc. There are different classes of medications that work differently.
However, they don’t cure glaucoma or prevent it from happening. Similarly, laser treatment and surgery (surgery is usually used in case of congenital glaucoma) are also temporary solutions. There’s no permanent or preventive method available.
Also, as we said earlier Intraocular Pressure management is not always effective. Glaucoma can progress even if the eye pressure is reduced or in the normal range.
Scientists are hypothesizing that oxidative stress can lead to the degeneration of optic nerves and lead to blindness. According to Dr. Amish Doshi, MD who specializes in glaucoma and works at Kaiser Permanente Northern California, the intake of antioxidants can help to reduce glaucoma risk caused by oxidative stress.
Foods like acai berries, pomegranate, dark chocolate, cranberries, bilberry, green tea, black tea, lycopene derived from tomato products, flax seeds, green leafy vegetables, can all support healthy vision necessary to prevent or slow down progressive eye conditions.
Take a look at 35 Best Foods For Eye Health to help improve your vision.
Needless to say, these foods have their own set of health benefits that can help maintain overall health. In case you are wondering what oxidative stress can do to your body, here is a quick list:
- It can lead to diabetes
- It can lead to cancer
- It can cause neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Atherosclerosis (it is a condition where blood vessels get hardened)
- Hypertension (aka high blood pressure)
- Faster aging
- It can lead to various inflammatory conditions
The list can literally be endless as seen in this interesting article on Health Line.
The bottom line is that you need to stay healthy, and if glaucoma is caused by oxidative stress, it can be prevented.
Natural Remedies for Glaucoma
Minimizing oxidative stress can be a natural way to prevent glaucoma. According to Dr. Axe, eating carotenoids (rich sources of antioxidants), vegetable and fruit juices (rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants), brewer’s yeast (source of chromium – an element that is helpful in case of glaucoma), etc. can help to prevent glaucoma naturally.
Detoxing the body is also vital and should be done on a regular basis. Consistently following a detox regime that works helps to get rid of heavy metal toxicity and improves overall health and also stops further eye damage in its tracks.
4 Supplements for Eyecare and Glaucoma Prevention
Besides eating antioxidant-rich food, there are a few supplements that can help to get ample antioxidants on a daily basis. Here are some of them:
These supplements contain Lycopene extracted from organic tomatoes. Lycopene supplements are known to improve eye, hair, heart and skin health.
This is yet another supplement that is known for improving brain, eye and skin health and reverses the effects of oxidative stress. This formula is enhanced by polyphenols and flavonoids.
Spirulina is an amazing supplement for reducing heavy metal toxicity and is known for reducing eye pressure and preventing cellular damage.
This antioxidant-rich supplement is known for improving eye and skin health. It also improves joint health.