Pressure In The Eyes: What Does Glaucoma Feel Like?

Glaucoma Is A Thief Of Vision

The term glaucoma represents a collection of eye diseases that have an adverse effect on the optic nerve. The optic nerve is the major thoroughfare between the eye and the brain responsible for giving the brain information about everything the eye takes in. The brain then takes this information and uses it to form what is seen.

Glaucoma occurs when fluid builds up in the eye, just as a clogged sink does not properly drain water. The water in a sink may overflow, but fluid in the eye has nowhere else to go. Instead, the fluid puts pressure on the optic nerve. This damages and eventually kills the nerve cells that send information onward, causing vision loss. Nerve cells that glaucoma kills never come back.

Glaucoma is never an open and shut case

There are two main types of the disease, known as open-angle and angle closure glaucoma. In open-angle glaucoma, fluid can still flow through the eye’s drainage channels, but these pathways are partially blocked. This leads to a gradual buildup of pressure in the eye. On the contrary, angle closure glaucoma is often a sudden and complete blockage of those drainage canals. Here, the eye experiences a rapid buildup of pressure.

A hidden danger

What does open-angle glaucoma feel like? The simple answer is this: usually nothing at all. Open-angle glaucoma increases eye pressure so gradually that individuals often don’t feel the pressure building up in the eye. In fact, from the outside, there’s typically no way to tell a healthy eye from one with open-angle glaucoma. Because glaucoma so subtly damages the eye, patients sometimes aren’t even aware the disease exists until the damage is already done.

Under a lot of pressure

The story changes significantly when angle closure glaucoma is involved. With the eye’s drainage channel completely blocked, eye pressure skyrockets in a very short amount of time. This spike often leads to intense, sudden pain in the eye that can even cause vomiting. The pain can further spread to the head, causing intermittent headaches.

If you can’t feel the pressure, watch out for these instead

When angle closure glaucoma hits, the intense pain should elicit an immediate trip to the ophthalmologist. Being rarely detectible, open-angle glaucoma is best monitored through frequent exams to prevent damage to the eye. Between visits, check for reduced vision and a loss of vision around the outside edges of the eye. These symptoms could be an indication of glaucoma and should be looked at by an eye specialist right away.