Glaucoma: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Medically Reviewed on 9/27/2017

Glaucoma is an eye disease characterized by a pattern of progressive damage to the optic nerve that transmits vision signals to the brain. It is often but not always associated with an increase in pressure within the eye (increased intraocular pressure). This pressure most often builds up painlessly over time. Signs and symptoms typically begin with a subtle loss of side vision (peripheral vision). If not diagnosed and treated, glaucoma can worsen and cause loss of central vision and blindness. Glaucoma can also occur in an acute form, in which the intraocular pressure increases very quickly because the drainage angle for the eye fluid becomes closed. An attack of acute angle-closure glaucoma can cause severe eye pain and headache, a red (inflamed) eye, nausea, vomiting, and blurred vision.

Causes of glaucoma

Elevated pressure in the eye is the main factor leading to the damage to the optic nerve. Other causes of glaucoma can include injury or trauma to the eye, inflammation, diabetes, cataracts, or decreased blood flow to the optic nerve. A rare, inherited form of glaucoma can occur in infants at birth.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/27/2017

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