Different Stages of Glaucoma

Glaucoma results from high pressure inside the eye that causes damage to the optic nerve. This condition typically happens slowly, progressing over a number of years. Doctors detect glaucoma by examining the back of the eye and measuring the intraocular pressure. To measure the pressure the doctor’s technician may use a machine that shoots a quick puff of air onto the surface of the eye, or, after putting in a numbing drop, she may gently place a small instrument against the eye. Understanding eye pressure, optic nerve appearance and the different stages of glaucoma may help those with the condition determine the best possible treatment.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Glaucoma Suspect

During an eye exam the doctor may discover a high eye pressure, though a high pressure does not necessarily mean the eye has glaucoma. Doctors must examine the optic nerve to determine if the nerve has any signs of damage. Even if the optic nerve does not show visible signs of damage, the doctor may take a picture of the optic nerve. The disease progresses slowly, and this photo will allow the doctor to compare the optic nerve on one exam to a photo during an exam a few months later. During the time the doctor watches the optic nerve for changes, he will diagnose the patient as a glaucoma suspect.


Once the doctor notices changes to the optic nerve, through comparing photos or through noticeable damage to the optic nerve and high eye pressures, the doctor will diagnose the person with glaucoma. Early stages of glaucoma do not typically cause vision changes, reports the University of Maryland Medical Center 3. High pressures and a damaged optic nerve may not result in any vision loss, and for these patients, the doctor determines that the glaucoma is in the early stage. The doctor will usually try to lower the eye pressure with glaucoma drops.

Moderate And Advanced

People with moderate and advanced glaucoma will have changes to vision. In the moderate stages, glaucoma takes away areas of the peripheral vision, and this occurs in such a slow progression that people do not typically notice vision changes, according the University of Maryland Medical Center 3. Advanced stages will often eliminate all side vision, and some people eventually have complete vision loss. In these late stages of the disease, doctors will continue to prescribe glaucoma eye drops, though, in some situations, they may recommend surgery to help lower the pressure.


Glaucoma may occur suddenly, resulting from angle closure, a condition where the drainage canal becomes completely blocked, says the National Eye Institute 1. Acute angle-closure glaucoma causes nausea, vomiting and extreme pain in the eye. Anyone with these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately. An eye doctor must get the eye pressure down before permanent vision loss occurs. Initially the doctor will give oral medications to lower the pressure and will also put eye drops in the eye. When the pressure lowers and the symptoms ease, the doctor will likely recommend surgery to allow the fluid to drain properly.