Glaucoma symptoms

Symptoms of glaucoma often aren’t noticeable in the early stages of the eye disease, so regular eye tests are important for an early diagnosis.

Symptoms vary with different types of glaucoma and may include:

  • Slow loss of peripheral vision

  • Seeing rainbow-coloured circles around bright lights

  • Blurred vision

  • Tunnel vision, in later stages

  • Red eyes

  • Severe eye pain

  • Headache

  • Nausea and vomiting

On this page

Glaucoma symptoms

The symptoms you experience can differ depending on what type of glaucoma you have. Many people will not experience symptoms of glaucoma, to begin with, only finding out after an eye test. Early diagnosis and treatment can limit sight loss.

Children might not be able to describe problems with their sight, so if you have any concerns, speak to your GP or optician. 

What are the first signs that glaucoma is developing?

Symptoms for the most common type of glaucoma can be slow to appear, which is why it’s important to get your eyes tested regularly. The NHS recommends having an eye exam every two years, but some people with an increased risk, such as a family history of glaucoma, may be advised to see their optician more often.

One of the first signs of open-angle glaucoma can be loss of peripheral vision (side vision). In acute narrow angle glaucoma, seeing rainbow-coloured circles around lights, and sensitivity to bright light can be early symptoms.

If you notice changes to your vision or have any concerns, see your eye doctor or optician as soon as you can. It’s essential to get help if you develop symptoms suddenly, such as vision loss.

Eye exams and glaucoma

Having regular eye exams is the best way to pick up on glaucoma, especially as you may not notice symptoms at first.

Regular eye examinations can also detect other eye conditions like cataracts and other medical conditions such as diabetes. The NHS recommends having an eye test at least every two years, more often if you’re at increased risk of glaucoma and as you get older.

Glaucoma tests

If your optician suspects you have glaucoma, they will refer you for more tests.

Glaucoma tests look at different aspects of your eye health and vision. They're quick, easy, and pain-free. An ophthalmologist will:

  • Test your eye pressure (called intraocular pressure) 
  • Check for any missing areas of vision
  • Examine the front part of your eye (where the fluid should drain out)
  • Look at the optic nerve, using eye drops to enlarge your pupils

Frequently asked questions

Medically reviewed by: The Royal College of Ophthalmologists on 28/07/2022

Edited by: Nick Astbury FRCS FRCOphth FRCP
Clinical Associate Professor

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists champions excellence in the practice of ophthalmology and is the only professional membership body for medically qualified ophthalmologists. The RCOphth is unable to offer direct advice to patients. If you’re concerned about the health of your eyes, you should seek medical advice from your GP, optometrist or ophthalmologist.

In this section...

Information to help you continue developing your independence and ways to enhance your day-to-day life skills.

Find out how technology can help you live independently with sight loss, from specialist assistive technology to apps and Apple accessibility features.