Glaucoma: Symptoms,

Causes and Treatment

Types  |  Symptoms  |  Urgent Care  |  Causes  |  Diagnosis |  Risk Factors |  Prevention  |  Treatments


Glaucoma refers to a group of eye conditions. People with glaucoma have a damaged optic nerve that can lead to vision loss and blindness. The optic nerve connects the eye to the brain and is essential for good vision. Typically there is loss of vision peripherally first (which you will not be aware of) followed by central vision loss.

The two main types of glaucoma:

  • Open-angle glaucoma (where gradual clogging of the drainage tubes slowly increases eye pressure). This may be due to high pressure (ocular hypertension/primary open angle glaucoma) or normal pressure (normal tension glaucoma)
  • Acute angle-closure glaucoma (where a sudden drainage tube clogging causes a rapid rise in eye pressure)

The other types of glaucoma are congenital (childhood) glaucoma and secondary.

  • Congenital glaucoma is rare and develops in young children. An eye abnormality often causes this type of glaucoma.
  • Secondary glaucoma occurs due to an underlying condition, such as pseudoexfoliation syndrome, pigment dispersion syndrome and uveitis (inflammation of the eye).

Symptoms of glaucoma

Glaucoma generally doesn’t cause symptoms at first. We usually detect it on routine screening. The loss of vision is so slow, as it progresses gradually, that many people do not notice their vision change. They often reach an advanced stage before they get their diagnosis.

The symptoms of glaucoma can differ depending on the type.

Open-angle glaucoma symptoms:

  • Patchy blind spots in your peripheral (side) or central vision, often in both eyes
  • Tunnel vision at an advanced stage
  • Swollen or bulging cornea
  • Reduced vision

Acute angle-closure glaucoma symptoms:

  • Eye pain
  • Red eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Severe headache
  • Halos around lights
  • Nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting

You may also experience tenderness around your eyes.

When to speak to a medical professional

If the symptoms of glaucoma come on suddenly, see your local emergency department urgently or see an ophthalmologist urgently. You may require immediate treatment. Sudden symptoms to pay attention to include severe headaches, eye pain and blurred vision.

If you’re concerned about your symptoms, and they have developed gradually, book an appointment with your doctor or an eye specialist.

Glaucoma causes

Abnormally high pressure in the eye causes glaucoma. Although glaucoma can sometimes develop even when the pressure is not high. Fluid (aqueous) tends to build up in the front of the eye, causing the pressure in the eye to increase. Glaucoma treatment aims to reduce the pressure inside the eye.
High eye pressure may occur due to:

  • Dilating eye drops
  • Excess aqueous fluid production
  • Poor blood flow to your optic nerve
  • Medications, such as corticosteroids
  • Blocked or restricted drainage in your eye

Glaucoma diagnosis

To diagnose glaucoma, we may perform a series of tests. Though, we might spot the initial signs during a routine eye test.

Glaucoma tests:

  • Visual acuity test – with an eye chart
  • Gonioscopy – to inspect the drainage angle
  • Tonometry – measuring your eye’s internal pressure
  • Pachymetry – measuring the thickness of your cornea
  • Visual field test (perimetry) – to check your peripheral vision
  • Nerve scan (OCT) – to assess your optic nerve which is damaged in glaucoma

We will also discuss your medical and family history to determine your glaucoma risk. Mention any health conditions you have and the medications you take.

Risk factors

Anyone could develop glaucoma. Though, certain groups of people are more likely to develop glaucoma.

Glaucoma risk factors include:

  • Over 40
  • Diabetes
  • Thin corneas
  • High eye pressure
  • Near-sightedness (myopia)
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • Previous trauma to the eye
  • Far-sightedness (hyperopia)
  • Have high blood pressure or heart disease
  • African American, Irish, Russian, Japanese, Hispanic, Inuit, or Scandinavian descent

If you are more at risk, you must attend your routine eye check-ups so we can detect it early. We recommend you have your eyes checked at least once every two years. You may wish to have more regular eye exams if you have a high glaucoma risk.

At Oculase, we offer glaucoma screening to improve your chances of finding glaucoma early. Contact us today to find out more.

How do I prevent glaucoma?

Currently, there are no known methods of preventing glaucoma. However, you can take steps to detect it in its early stages, helping you prevent vision loss and slow its progress.

  • Have regular dilated eye examinations
  • Know your risk

Reducing your inner eye pressure will also help you slow the progression of glaucoma.

  • Elevate your head while sleeping
  • Wear eye protection to avoid trauma
  • Use eye drops to reduce high eye pressure
  • A consistent exercise programme to reduce eye pressure
  • Lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking and avoiding too much caffeine

Follow the advice of your eye specialist (ophthalmologist) after a glaucoma diagnosis to prevent it from worsening.

Treating glaucoma

Glaucoma treatment cannot reverse any damage caused by glaucoma, but it can slow the progression of your condition.

Watch Mr Tariq Ayoub, our Consultant Ophthalmologist, discuss whether glaucoma is treatable in his video below.


To learn more, visit our Glaucoma Treatment page.

Book an appointment

If you are at risk of developing glaucoma or are showing signs of it, book an appointment with an ophthalmologist.

We offer a thorough consultation and eye assessment to determine the health of your eyes. Then, we will arrange the appropriate tests to confirm whether you have glaucoma.

At Oculase, we offer expert glaucoma treatment. If you have a glaucoma diagnosis, visit Oculase for high-quality care tailored to you.

0330 128 1616

Our clinic sites are regulated by
The Care Quality Commission (CQC)

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    Whether you can drive with glaucoma will depend on your vision and your visual field test. The DVLA has strict driving standards that you must adhere to.

    Without treatment, glaucoma can lead to blindness. We cannot restore vision loss from glaucoma, so it’s important to find it early. We can manage your condition and prevent vision loss with the right treatment.

    Yes, open-angle glaucoma is hereditary. But, having a close relative with glaucoma does not mean you will get it. It simply means that you are more at risk of developing glaucoma. Getting your eye tested regularly will help us detect it early.

    Both glaucoma and cataracts are eye conditions that affect your vision. They share some risk factors but are essentially different problems affecting the eye. Glaucoma causes optic nerve damage, whereas cataracts cause clouding of the eye.

    Diabetes can cause raised eye pressure , leading to optic nerve damage and glaucoma. For open-angle glaucoma, the treatment is the same as that for patients without diabetes. 

    People with diabetes are twice as likely to develop glaucoma. If you have diabetes, we recommend attending dilated eye exams every year. You should also take extra caution with your eye health.

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