Glaucoma affects peripheral vision, creating blind spots in the outer edges of a person’s visual field. This can affect daily activities such as driving and walking.

Glaucoma is the name for a group of eye disorders that can lead to damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve transmits visual information from the eye to the brain.

An important aspect of vision is peripheral vision, which enables people to detect motion, navigate surroundings, and maintain situational awareness. However, conditions, such as glaucoma, can compromise this intricate system, leading to significant visual health issues.

In this article, we examine how glaucoma affects peripheral vision, other visual symptoms, early warning signs of glaucoma, and when to contact a doctor.

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Glaucoma is the second leading cause of permanent blindness in the United States and occurs most often in older adults.

As glaucoma progresses, it can cause gradual and irreversible damage to the optic nerve fibers, resulting in a loss of peripheral vision. The effects on peripheral vision occur due to the specific pattern of nerve fiber loss in the retina.

In the early stages of glaucoma, these fibers, which are responsible for capturing peripheral visual information, are often the first to become affected. This gradual damage creates blind spots in the outer edges of the visual field, making it difficult for individuals to notice subtle vision changes.

Alongside the gradual loss of peripheral vision, which people refer to as tunnel vision, individuals with glaucoma may experience other visual symptoms, depending on the type.

Symptoms of closed-angle glaucoma may include:

  • blurred vision
  • difficulty adjusting to low light conditions
  • seeing a halo-like glow around lights
  • pain

While central vision may remain relatively intact in the early stages, the progressive loss of peripheral vision can significantly affect daily activities such as driving, walking, and recognizing faces.

Glaucoma does not usually present with any initial symptoms and tends to develop slowly over many years. For this reason, many people do not realize they have the condition and may only detect its presence during a routine eye test.

Over time, a person may slowly lose vision, usually starting with the peripheral (side) vision, especially the range of vision closest to the nose. Because it happens so slowly, many people cannot tell that their vision is changing at first. As the condition worsens, someone may start to notice that they cannot see things off to the side anymore. Without treatment, glaucoma can eventually cause blindness.

Symptoms accompanying closed-angle glaucoma might include blurred vision or seeing rainbow-colored circles around bright lights. Glaucoma usually affects both eyes, although it may be worse in one eye.

Understanding the risk factors linking peripheral vision loss with glaucoma is crucial for proactive eye care. While anyone can develop glaucoma, certain factors increase the likelihood of its occurrence. Some risk factors include:

  • Age: The risk of glaucoma increases with age, particularly after the age of 40.
  • Family history: A family history of glaucoma raises an individual’s risk, suggesting that it may be genetic.
  • Ethnicity: Some ethnic groups, such as African Americans, have a higher risk of developing certain types of glaucoma.
  • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, can increase the risk of glaucoma.
  • Eye conditions: Other eye conditions, such as high myopia, which refers to nearsightedness, and a history of eye injuries, can contribute to the development of glaucoma.
  • Corticosteroid use: Long-term use of corticosteroid medications, whether in the form of eye drops, pills, or inhalers, can elevate the risk of glaucoma.

Understanding these risk factors can empower individuals to be proactive about their eye health and seek regular eye examinations, especially if one or more of these risk factors are present.

It is crucial to be vigilant and seek prompt medical attention if any potential signs or risk factors are present. While routine eye exams are essential for monitoring overall eye health, an individual should not ignore specific symptoms.

If someone experiences any of the following symptoms, they should contact an eye care professional promptly:

  • A gradual loss of peripheral vision: A person experiencing the onset of peripheral vision loss, especially if it occurs gradually, should undergo evaluation by an eye care professional.
  • Blurred vision or difficulty seeing in low light conditions: Any unexplained vision changes warrant a comprehensive eye examination.
  • Frequent changes in glasses prescription: If there are frequent changes in glasses prescription, it may indicate underlying eye health issues.
  • Persistent eye pain or discomfort: While open-angle glaucoma may not cause pain, closed-angle may cause it, and an eye doctor should investigate persistent eye pain or discomfort.
  • Sudden vision changes: A person needs to promptly address any sudden changes in vision, including the appearance of halos around lights, as this may be a sign of closed-angle glaucoma.

Glaucoma is a common eye condition that affects people as they get older. It occurs when fluid does not drain from the eye, increasing pressure and the risk of damage to the optic nerve.

Glaucoma may have no symptoms in the early stages. However, it can start with the loss of peripheral vision and may lead to complete vision loss. Regular eye tests and awareness of potential risk factors can help detect changes that will enable someone to seek treatment.

As a progressive eye condition, glaucoma demands early detection and intervention to minimize its effects on visual health. Understanding the signs, symptoms, and risk factors enables individuals to take proactive steps in preserving their vision and maintaining overall eye health.