An Introduction to Glaucoma: Signs and Symptoms, Causes, Treatments and Prevention

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Glaucoma refers to an umbrella of eye conditions caused by a damaged optic nerve. Usually, the damage is caused by high pressure in the eyeball. Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the US. Although this condition is common among aging patients, glaucoma affects people of all ages.

Unfortunately, signs and symptoms occur only when the condition has worsened. The effect of glaucoma is so gradual that the red flags are unnoticed for years. Once the vision is lost due to glaucoma, the effect is permanent. Early detection is key to reducing the chances of blindness. If you developed glaucoma, you will need treatment for the rest of your life. And even with treatment 15% of those diagnosed with this condition will become blind in at least one eye within 20 years.

Types of Glaucoma

  • Open-Angle Glaucoma
  • Angle-Closure Glaucoma
  • Normal-Tension Glaucoma
  • Glaucoma in Children
  • Pigmentary Glaucoma

Signs and Symptoms of Glaucoma

The signs and symptoms will depend on the type of glaucoma that ails a patient. For Open-angle glaucoma, the symptoms include patchy vision or blind spots in the peripheral or central vision in both eyes and tunnel vision.

Symptoms of acute angle-closure glaucoma include a pounding headache, eye pain, blurred vision, and eye redness. Other symptoms include halos or auras, nausea, and vomiting.


Because the damage to the optic nerve is irreversible, there is no cure for glaucoma. However, treatments can help slow down vision loss especially if the condition is caught in its early stage. Most of the treatments are meant to reduce the pressure in the optic nerve.

Prescription Eye Drops

The eye drops are meant to alleviate eye pressure by boosting the drainage of fluid from the eye. Different types of eye drop meant to relieve glaucoma include Prostaglandins, Beta blockers, Alpha-adrenergic agonists, Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors and Miotic or cholinergic agents.

Oral Medication

If the eye drops did not relieve the eye pressure, your doctor will recommend a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor drug. This drug may effective reduce pressure on the optic nerve, but it may cause temporary discomforts such as depression, frequent urination, and an upset stomach. It may also cause kidney stones and depression.


Surgery is an aggressive treatment to reduce eye pressure and slow down the symptoms of glaucoma. However, it has several complications including bleeding, pain, and infection. Types of invasive treatments to treat glaucoma include: Laser trabeculoplasty, Filtering surgery, Drainage tubes and Electrocautery.

How to Prevent Glaucoma

Although glaucoma has no cure, there are self-care steps you can take to limit or slow down the progression of the disease.

Regular Check Up

Always get comprehensive eye exams regularly to detect glaucoma in its early stages. This exam should be conducted every 4 years beginning at the age of 40 and every two years at the age of 65.

Check Your Family History

This condition is hereditary so check your family’s eye health history and let your doctor know if you have an increased risk of glaucoma. This way, your physician can schedule regular comprehensive eye exams.

Reduce Eye Pressure

Vigorous physical activities –such as exercising – can put a lot of pressure on the optic nerve. If you have a high risk of glaucoma, avoid intense exercise. You can consult your doctor for the right exercise program for your needs. In addition, protect your eyes from damage by wearing protective eyewear whenever you are using power tools.

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