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5 Early Signs of Glaucoma

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An older man sitting on a couch holding his glasses in his left hand as he rubs his right eye with his right hand.

Glaucoma is a sneakily progressive eye condition that often presents no symptoms until irreversible damage is done to your vision. However, early detection through regular eye exams can prevent vision loss. 

While you may not notice early symptoms, 5 possible early signs of glaucoma can include:

  1. Blurry vision
  2. Eye pain
  3. Haloes around lights
  4. Nausea
  5. Eye redness

What Is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in Canada. Glaucoma is not a single disease but a group of conditions that damages the optic nerve, usually due to increased pressure in the eye. The function of the optic nerve is to transmit visual information from the eye to the brain. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to permanent vision loss, so early detection is vital.

Causes of Glaucoma

The exact cause of glaucoma isn’t always clear, but it often results from an imbalance between the production and drainage of fluid in the eye. This fluid, called aqueous humour, flows in and out of the eye, maintaining a healthy pressure. When there is an obstruction or overproduction of this fluid, the pressure inside the eye increases, leading to damage to the optic nerve.

Types of Glaucoma

There are several types of glaucoma, which all fall under primary and secondary glaucomas:

  • Open-angle glaucoma: This is the most common type of glaucoma. It develops slowly with a gradual increase in intraocular pressure.
  • Angle-closure glaucoma: Can progress gradually or suddenly due to fluid buildup from a blocked drainage system in the eye. Angle-closure glaucoma can lead to a rapid onset of symptoms.
  • Normal-tension glaucoma: This is when there is damage to the optic nerve despite normal intraocular pressure. The exact cause of normal-tension glaucoma is not well understood.
  • Secondary glaucoma: Glaucoma and optic nerve damage from an injury, surgery, infection, tumour, medical condition, medication, or eye abnormality. 

Early Warning Signs of Glaucoma

Glaucoma can progress to the later stages and affect your vision without noticeable symptoms. Regular eye exams can detect glaucoma in the early stages to prevent vision loss. Signs of glaucoma usually depend on the type of glaucoma. 

  1. Blurry Vision

Glaucoma can cause blurred or hazy vision. Blurry vision may occur intermittently or persistently. If you experience vision that is not as sharp as it used to be, it’s important to schedule an eye exam promptly. Addressing vision changes early can significantly impact the effectiveness of treatment and help preserve your eyesight.

  1. Eye Pain

Glaucoma can cause eye pain, particularly when there is elevated intraocular pressure. You can experience eye pain from various eye conditions, so consult your eye doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

  1. Haloes Around Lights

Seeing haloes or rings around lights, especially in low-light conditions, can indicate early signs of glaucoma. This phenomenon is often associated with increased intraocular pressure. While haloes can sometimes be harmless, persistent haloes may signal an underlying eye issue that requires prompt attention.

  1. Nausea & Vomiting

A sudden onset of symptoms such as nausea and vomiting can occur in angle-closure glaucoma. This type of glaucoma is a medical emergency, as it can quickly lead to vision loss. 

  1. Eye Redness

Redness in the eyes from increased eye pressure could be a sign of glaucoma, especially when accompanied by eye pain. This is another symptom that can accompany a variety of eye issues, so visit your eye doctor to determine the cause.

An optometrist performing a slit-lamp exam on an older adult woman.

Signs of Glaucoma Progression

As glaucoma progresses, it can lead to loss of peripheral vision. You may notice difficulty seeing objects or movement out of the corner of your eye. Loss of peripheral vision can interfere with daily life, such as driving. 

Without treatment, glaucoma can progress to the late stages. Signs of late-stage glaucoma can include loss of central vision, also called tunnel vision, or complete vision loss. 

How to Get a Glaucoma Diagnosis

Your eye doctor can diagnose glaucoma with a comprehensive eye exam. During the eye exam, they use eye drops to dilate the eyes or widen the pupils to check for signs of glaucoma. They may also do a visual field test to check your peripheral vision. 

Treatment for Glaucoma

While there is no cure for glaucoma, various treatment options can help control the condition, depending on the severity and type of glaucoma, to prevent further vision loss. These may include:

  • Prescription eye drops: Helps to reduce eye pressure
  • Laser treatment: Helps with fluid drainage from the eyes  
  • Surgery: Helps reduce eye pressure when medication is not enough 

Regular eye checkups are fundamental, especially for those at higher risk, such as individuals with a family history of glaucoma, those over 60 years old, people with increased eye pressure, and people with certain medical conditions, like diabetes.

Preserve Your Vision with Eye Exams

Glaucoma is a serious eye condition that can result in permanent vision loss if not detected early. Detection of the early signs of glaucoma means you can receive a proper diagnosis and prevent further eye damage and vision loss. Take a proactive approach and book an appointment with St. Clair Eye Clinic to monitor your eye health and vision. 

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Written by Dr. Neel Vyas

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