There are typically no visual changes in the initial stages of glaucoma. As damage occurs to the optic nerve, people may develop blind spots in their peripheral visual field. Some can see halos and have blurry vision.

Glaucoma is a group of conditions that gradually damages the optic nerve. It usually happens due to increased pressure in the eye as the result of fluid buildup. This leads to progressive vision loss and blindness.

It is the second leading cause of blindness around the world, affecting about three million people in the United States.

Read on to learn more about what glaucoma vision looks like and how to treat and prevent glaucoma.

Close up image of a person's eye and cheekShare on Pinterest
Getty Images

There are different forms of glaucoma. The most common type is open-angle glaucoma. Most people refer to this type when they discuss glaucoma.

A less common type of glaucoma known as acute angle-closure glaucoma is a medical emergency. It typically presents with a sudden onset of severe pain in one eye, headache, nausea, and vomiting.

These systemic symptoms usually come with blurred or decreased vision.

Read more about glaucoma here.

Seeing rainbow-colored halos or rings around lights, or “rainbow vision,” is normal as the eyes adjust to a bright light that shines directly on them.

It occurs as light bends as it enters the eye. Light comprises many colors, but the human eye does not distinguish them because the rays focus on a single point.

Seeing halos around lights may be an early sign of acute angle-closure glaucoma.

The loss of peripheral or side vision, also known as tunnel vision, occurs gradually as the optic nerve receives damage.

A person with glaucoma generally loses their peripheral vision gradually but retains their central vision. People can describe it as looking into a tube where a person sees things straight ahead clearly, but the sides look dim or blurry.

The loss usually starts on the side nearest to the nose. This loss is so gradual that a person may not notice the changes at first.

Read more about glaucoma and blindness here.

Aside from blurry vision, people with a diagnosis of various stages and types of glaucoma reported needing more light in a 2014 study.

Light perception is essential for sight, whether for day or night vision. A 2023 study noted that challenges in seeing in daylight and dark are also commonly reported visual symptoms of people with glaucoma.

A person with glaucoma may also have blind spots, or scotomas. These spots develop in areas where there has been damage to nerve fibers from high eye pressure.

The spots may appear dark, blurred, or fuzzy. In a 2017 study that involved 176 people with early to moderate glaucoma, the most common symptoms were seeing partial blurring, missing parts, or black parts in an image.

Early treatment is important for glaucoma. The treatment generally aims to reduce eye pressure.

Treatments for glaucoma may include:

  • eye drops
  • oral medication
  • laser treatment, such as iridotomy and trabeculoplasty
  • surgery, such as trabeculectomy

Some people may have a higher risk of developing glaucoma. These risk factors include:

  • being over the age of 40
  • having relatives with glaucoma
  • having eye conditions such as high eye pressure, nearsightedness, or farsightedness
  • having thinner than average corneas
  • having a history of eye injury
  • using long-term steroid medications
  • having optic nerve thinning
  • having medical conditions such as diabetes, migraine, poor blood circulation, high blood pressure, or other systemic conditions

It is important for those at a higher risk of developing glaucoma to get regular eye exams. This is so the condition is found in its early stages.

Other ways to prevent glaucoma include the following:

  • Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables and colored fruits and vegetables.
  • Get regular moderate exercise.
  • Wear protective eye equipment to avoid eye injuries.
  • Do not place the head below the heart, as head-down positions raise eye pressure.
  • Avoid sleeping with eyes against the pillow or on the arms.
  • Use wide-brimmed hats or polarized sunglasses to protect the eyes from sunlight.
  • Practice proper dental hygiene, as some studies link optic nerve damage with gum disease.
  • Inform the ophthalmologist about blood pressure and steroid medications.

The following are some questions people frequently ask about glaucoma and vision.

What does early glaucoma vision look like?

A person with early stage glaucoma may not experience any visual changes. However, a doctor may find glaucoma during a routine eye exam.

What does a person with glaucoma see?

Depending on the stage and type of glaucoma, a person with the condition may have tunnel vision. Aside from this, there is also deterioration in the quality of vision, and people may have blurry vision and blind spots and need more light to see.

What can be mistaken for glaucoma?

Conditions such as optic atrophy, optic neuropathy, and compressive nonglaucomatous optic neuropathy can cause similar symptoms of vision loss. Some conditions may also mimic the presentation of acute angle-closure glaucoma. These include:

What vision is lost first in glaucoma?

Peripheral, or side, vision is typically lost first in glaucoma. This pattern is a characteristic that distinguishes it from other forms of vision loss.

Is there a cure for glaucoma?

There is currently no cure for glaucoma. However, catching it early and receiving treatment can help preserve the remaining sight.

Glaucoma is an eye condition affecting vision and can cause permanent loss if a person does not get effective treatment.

Glaucoma vision may look blurry and dim on the edges, and a person may need more light to see. It is important for people at higher risk of glaucoma to get regular eye exams to catch the condition early.