Glaucoma: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment | Discover Vision

Glaucoma: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

glaucoma symptoms

Glaucoma is a major cause of visual impairment in the United States. People with glaucoma gradually develop damage to the optic nerve in one or both eyes. This damage is caused by elevated fluid pressure within the eye and leads to eventual vision loss. While there is no cure for glaucoma, Discover Vision’s glaucoma specialists provide treatment that can help to slow the progression of the disease by lowering eye pressure. Treatments may include eye drops, laser procedures, and in some cases surgery.

What Is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a medical eye condition where the optic nerve becomes damaged over time, resulting in vision loss. This damage is caused by elevated fluid pressure within the eye. Glaucoma may often affect one eye more severely than the other. Vision loss is painless and gradual, and may not be noticed by patients until more advanced stages of the disease. If untreated, glaucoma may lead to significant visual impairment or even blindness.

What Is the Optic Nerve?

The optic nerves are a pair of nerves, one for each eye, which travel from the eye to the brain. These nerves are responsible for carrying visual information to the brain to be interpreted as the images we see.

What Causes Glaucoma?

glaucoma treatment

The main cause of glaucoma is related to an increase in the intraocular pressure (IOP) inside of the eye. In a healthy eye, a nourishing fluid called aqueous humor is produced, flowing through the pupil and exiting through a drainage canal near the front of the eye. With glaucoma, however, this canal becomes clogged. Much like a clogged kitchen sink, the liquid in the eye begins to build up and place pressure on the eye. As the intraocular pressure inside of the eye rises, it can result in damage to the optic nerve, eventually leading to glaucoma.

Glaucoma Risk Factors

It is estimated that approximately 3 million people in the US have glaucoma, or nearly two percent of the population over the age of 40. Glaucoma touches people of every race; however, African Americans, Latinos, Asians and Inuits may be more susceptible to certain types of glaucoma, and may also develop the disease at a younger age. In general, you may be at greater glaucoma risk as you age. 

Other risk factors include:

Glaucoma Types

what is glaucoma

There are many different types of glaucoma, which include the following:

Open-Angle Glaucoma

Open-Angle Glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma. Because vision loss is generally slow and painless, it can be difficult to notice symptoms. With open-angle glaucoma, eye pressure builds up gradually over the course of months or years.

Angle-Closure Glaucoma

Angle-Closure Glaucoma is also known as narrow angle glaucoma.  It is the second most common type of glaucoma and occurs when the drain in the eye is suddenly blocked by the colored part of the eye (iris), causing a rapid rise in eye pressure. Unlike open-angle glaucoma which happens gradually over time, this process is often painful and causes a dramatic decrease in vision. New onset of angle closure glaucoma is a medical emergency and requires immediate evaluation by an eye doctor.

Secondary Glaucoma

You may be diagnosed with Secondary Glaucoma if you have a primary condition, such as diabetes, cataracts or hypertension, that has caused an increase in the intraocular pressure in your eye.

Normal-Tension Glaucoma

Under some circumstances, a patient may develop glaucoma damage without highly elevated eye pressure. These patients often have an optic nerve that is more sensitive than average to pressure-related damage. Lowering eye pressure is still an effective therapy for this type of glaucoma.

Pigmentary Glaucoma

The colored part of your eye is called the iris. With Pigmentary Glaucoma, tiny clumps of pigment break loose from the iris and become stuck in the eye’s drain. This blockage can raise the eye’s internal pressure and lead to glaucoma.


Congenital glaucoma is typically diagnosed at birth or in early childhood. This condition is usually the result of incomplete formation of the eye’s natural drainage system. Infants or children diagnosed with this type of glaucoma sometimes have additional medical conditions, but congenital glaucoma can occur in otherwise healthy infants as well. 

Glaucoma Symptoms

how to treat glaucoma

In general, open angle glaucoma, the more common type of glaucoma, will not cause pain and vision changes will be difficult for the patient to notice until the more advanced stages of the disease. Regular dilated eye exam with your eye care professional can help to monitor for the signs of early glaucoma.

Angle closure glaucoma may present with sudden onset of headache, blurry vision, halos, and nausea or vomiting. Symptoms usually only occur in one eye. Angle closure glaucoma is a medical emergency and required evaluation by an eye care professional as soon as possible.

Open-Angle Glaucoma Symptoms

Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma  Symptoms

Symptoms generally only occur in one eye and include

How Is Glaucoma Diagnosed?

Glaucoma is diagnosed by an eyecare professional following a clinical eye exam. The optic nerve is examined for signs of glaucoma damage and eye pressure is measured. Additional testing, such as photographs of the optic nerve, structural scans of the optic nerve, and tests of peripheral vision may be used to aid in the diagnosis and management of glaucoma.

How to Treat Glaucoma?

what causes glaucoma

Treatment for glaucoma consists of lowering elevated eye pressure to safe levels, slowing or ideally stopping further damage to the optic nerve from developing. Initial treatment usually consists of regular use of one or more types of prescription eye drops. In some cases, laser procedures may be useful as a supplement or replacement to eye drops. In advanced cases, surgery may be required to fully lower eye pressure.

Eye Drops

Prescription eye drops are often used as a first line treatment for glaucoma. Several different types of pressure lowering drops exist, different combinations may be used depending on the type and severity of glaucoma.

Oral Medication

Oral medications are not typically used in the long term treatment of glaucoma.

Laser Surgery

Laser procedures may be used to aid in treating both open angle and angle closure glaucoma. Your eye care provider will discuss any laser treatments appropriate for you at the time of your visit.


If microsurgery is discussed, this may involve a procedure called a trabeculectomy. During a trabeculectomy, your eye doctor would create a channel to drain fluid in order to regulate the pressure inside your eye. Your doctor will discuss any risks involved with this type of surgery.

How to Prevent Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a condition that will need continuous follow up with your eye doctor, including eye examinations and intraocular pressure checks or IOP visits. We are often asked about glaucoma prevention, and although there is no way to prevent glaucoma from happening, routine eye exams and IOP checks are important to monitor the condition of your eyes. 

Get Regular Dilated Eye Examinations

Regular dilated eye examinations are the best way to monitor the health of your eyes. Dilated exams allow the eye doctor to see inside of your eye, take appropriate measurements and monitor progression of glaucoma. Every Discover Vision office offers eye care exams, and most locally available insurance plans are accepted.

Know Your Family’s Eye Health History

Family health history is extremely important because glaucoma is often hereditary. If glaucoma runs in your family, you may be at greater risk of developing this condition. 

Follow Your Doctor’s Instructions

Following the instructions of your eye doctor is important. If you have glaucoma or are at greater risk, this could mean that more frequent screenings are requested by your doctor. If your pressure is high, eye drops may also be prescribed and following the instructions for your medication is imperative.


Exercise or movement in general keeps your blood flowing to the nerves in your eyes and may also help decrease the pressure inside your eyes. Talk to your doctor about the best exercise options for you.

Protect Your Eyes

Protecting your eyes is always important. Wear eye protection to prevent injury and other harmful things from affecting your eyes. When you have glaucoma, your eyes may be sensitive to glare.

Tips for Living with Glaucoma

signs of glaucoma

Once you are diagnosed with glaucoma, unfortunately, the condition does not go away. Monitoring and maintaining your vision is something you’ll need to do for the rest of your life. Our eye doctors can help. One of the best things you can do to manage your glaucoma is to have routine eye exams and screenings. 

Eat Healthy

It may sound cliche, but a healthy diet and exercise are two of the best things you can do for your vision.

Take Your Medicine

It is important to take your medicine (eye drops, pills, etc) as prescribed by your doctor, and to follow all instructions related to your glaucoma treatment.

Careful with Contacts

If you wear contact lenses, one of the most important things you can do is follow instructions on usage, removal as well as washing your hands.

Don’t Smoke

Smoking causes inflammation and is unhealthy for your eyes. Ask your doctor if you need help or assistance on how to quit smoking.

Watch Your Caffeine

Too much caffeine has been linked to an increase in eye pressure. Eye pressure stability is extremely important for those who have glaucoma. Be sure to monitor how much caffeine you consume as well as any effects you may experience.

Don’t Rub

Rubbing or scratching your eyes can lead to other problems or potential infection. If your eyes feel itchy, your eye doctor will be able to determine if this is linked to dry eye or another condition. If so, eye drops may help to alleviate those symptoms.

Drive Safely

It is important to maintain eye exams and glaucoma checks at the interval that your eye doctor has discussed with you. Your ability to drive depends on how well you can see and whether you can safely pass the DMV’s vision test and whether you feel confident in your ability to navigate with ease.

Be Careful with Yoga

Certain yoga positions may increase your eye pressure. As with anything else you do, it is important to monitor how an activity makes you feel and to make changes or adjustments.


glaucoma causes

In summary, although you cannot prevent glaucoma from occurring, early detection and management of this eye condition is important. Discover Vision has a team of highly capable optometrists and ophthalmologists who will work with you to monitor and treat your glaucoma. Contact us for more information!

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