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American Academy of Ophthalmology

American Academy of Ophthalmology

Symptoms of Glaucoma

Symptoms of Glaucoma

Some forms of glaucoma take years to develop, while others attack without warning. The American Academy of Ophthalmology explains what to look out for.


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Glaucoma is often called “the silent thief of sight.” Open-angle glaucoma, the most common form of the disease, offers no warning and shows no symptoms until your optic nerve has already sustained considerable permanent damage.

For this reason, getting regular eye exams is imperative. The earlier that glaucoma is detected and treated, the better your chances are of halting disease progression and retaining at least partial vision.

Though all forms of glaucoma involve increased internal eye pressure, there can be variety in how each type presents itself. The American Academy of Ophthalmology provides an overview of the most common symptoms of glaucoma.*   

Open-angle glaucoma symptoms

The open-angle form of glaucoma progresses gradually. It can take several years for the buildup of pressure inside your eye to damage the optic nerve enough to cause noticeable vision loss. 

If the disease isn’t identified and treated early, the first symptom you’ll notice is loss of your peripheral, or side, vision (the ability to see out of the corner of your eye). This gives your vision a tunnel-like effect. 

As the damage worsens, the loss of vision progresses to the front and center of your eye. Regular eye exams enable your ophthalmologist to watch for risk factors and early damage that you wouldn’t notice on your own. 

Angle-closure glaucoma symptoms

Angle-closure, or closed-angle, glaucoma can be chronic or acute. Chronic angle-closure glaucoma progresses slowly, and vision loss occurs gradually. 

Acute angle-closure glaucoma is a medical emergency and can cause complete blindness within a few days if not treated quickly. 

Symptoms of an attack can include: 

  • seeing halos or rainbows surrounding bright lights;
  • blurred or hazy vision;
  • redness in the eye;
  • sudden loss of sight;
  • headaches; and
  • severe eye pain, typically accompanied by nausea and/or vomiting.

If you experience any of these symptoms, especially a combination of them, contact your eye doctor or ophthalmologist immediately. If symptoms are severe, go to your local emergency room (ER).

Normal tension glaucoma symptoms

People with normal tension glaucoma (NTG) experience optic nerve damage and develop blind spots in their vision despite having normal eye pressure.  

Many patients with NTG have also reported symptoms that can indicate vascular (blood vessel) impairment, including:

  • migraine headaches,
  • cold hands and feet, and
  • low blood pressure.

As with the other types of chronic glaucoma, NTG progresses gradually. People with NTG, however, are more likely than the others to experience optic nerve hemorrhages. This can help doctors diagnose the disease early enough to prevent total vision loss.

Additional information on glaucoma symptoms can be found on the Glaucoma Research Foundation and BrightFocus Foundation websites.

*Boyd, K. (2019, Mar. 12). What Are Common Glaucoma Symptoms?. American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Any sources from outside of Prevent Blindness do not imply an endorsement from Prevent Blindness. The contents of the material used are the responsibility of the authoring organization, Responsum Health.

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