Can Glaucoma Cause Headaches?

Can Glaucoma Cause Headaches

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Glaucoma is sometimes referred to as the “silent thief of sight” since symptoms do not appear until late in the course of the illness when central vision is impaired. On the other hand, some types of glaucoma might result in headaches. 

In general, headaches are not brought on by chronic glaucomas such as primary open-angle glaucoma. Nevertheless, headaches can be brought on by acute types of glaucoma, which occur when the drainage system abruptly shuts and the eye pressure rises quickly. Moreover, headaches can be brought on by specific secondary glaucomas that result in extremely high ocular pressures. 

You may read more about the circumstances in which glaucoma might result in headaches below.

Migraines and glaucoma

Migraines and glaucoma

Those who get headaches frequently experience a range of intensities, from light to severe. It is possible to confuse some glaucoma headaches for migraines since both can result in visual abnormalities including seeing halos around objects or hazy vision. Headaches brought on by glaucoma might be felt in or around the eyes or forehead. The headache could occasionally be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. 

The most typical reason for recurring moderate-to-severe headaches is migraine. According to a poll, this condition affects 43% of women and 18% of men during the course of their lifetimes. Those who are affected frequently first have migraine headaches around youth or early adulthood and discover that they alter over time, typically subsiding beyond age 50. A migraine diagnosis may be greatly aided by a favorable family history. Bright lights, loud noises, hunger, stress, hormonal changes, and too much or too little sleep are all potential migraine causes. A migraine can also be brought on by things that are consumed, such as red wine. Changes in lifestyle that prevent these triggers can be highly beneficial for patients. 

Migraine headaches can be quite incapacitating, and their symptoms often last 4 to 72 hours. Moving aggravates the discomfort, which is frequently unilateral, throbbing, and painful. Very prevalent symptoms include photophobia, nausea, and vomiting. Auras, which might include vision abnormalities or other neurologic symptoms, happen in around 25% of patients. They could notice color or size distortions, a “heat wave” effect, favorable visual phenomena like zigzags or flashing lights, as well as adverse phenomena like one or more scotomas. The border of the scotoma is frequently jagged, and it grows gradually until disappears.

Extremely rarely, glaucoma symptoms may suddenly change into:  

  • Nausea with vomiting 
  • Red eyes 
  • Headaches
  • Sensitivity near the eyes 
  • Seeing halos around lights 
  • Distorted vision

Angle-Closure Glaucoma

Angle-closure glaucoma is a different type of glaucoma that results in extremely high eye pressure and headaches. The ocular pressure progressively rises during an angle-closure glaucoma episode until the drainage angle entirely shuts, which causes the (IOP) eye pressure to rise more quickly. The patient may have discomfort, nausea, pain, headache, and impaired vision. This form of glaucoma attack is treated by utilizing medication to reduce eye pressure and a surgery called laser iridotomy to create a tiny hole in the iris to “break” the attack. The angle-closure glaucoma attack prevention laser technique is the same as this. The laser operation is more difficult to carry out in an urgent situation, though, when the patient is in discomfort and the cornea may be inflamed from the high eye pressure. 

A person with narrow angles may experience intermittent closure of the angle prior to an angle-closure glaucoma episode, for example, in a dark setting like a movie theater. In these circumstances, it is conceivable for a person to have a headache and impaired vision, but they will go away when the angle closure goes away (without turning into a full-fledged attack). A person at risk for an angle-closure episode, often known as a “principal angle-closure suspect,” may also experience partial or even total angle closure in other circumstances. The use of oral pharmaceuticals, such as some over-the-counter cold remedies, prescription drugs, or even having the pupils dilated during an eye test, falls under this category.

Narrow-angle glaucoma and headaches 

Some disease types manifest rapidly, necessitating prompt treatment to prevent eyesight loss. Glaucoma headaches are frequent in these circumstances, and there is frequently no prior sickness or warning. 

One of these situations is narrow-angle glaucoma, which produces a rapid rise in ocular pressure. There are other names for it, including acute glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma. 

Severe headaches from narrow-angle glaucoma may or may not be accompanied by discomfort in the forehead or the eyes. Moreover, the illness may result in eye redness, visual abnormalities, colorful “halos” surrounding lights, light sensitivity, nausea, and vomiting. 

Neovascular glaucoma 

Neovascular glaucoma is one kind of glaucoma that can result in very high ocular pressures and headaches. This is a secondary type of glaucoma when the drainage system is covered in aberrant blood vessels. When a person has proliferative diabetic retinopathy, a more severe form of diabetic eye disease, the formation of this aberrant iris and drainage-angle veins may occur. A central retinal vein occlusion, for example, can lead to vascular occlusions (obstructions) in the eye. 

Other, less frequent causes of neovascular glaucoma exist, but they all include the development of these aberrant blood vessels. The drainage angle eventually becomes totally blocked, and the ocular pressure increases significantly. The patient will experience discomfort, nausea, headaches, and impaired vision. Regular dilated eye exams are the best approach to detect various types of glaucoma, especially if you have diabetes.

Open-angle glaucoma and headaches 

The majority of people picture this condition when they think of primary open-angle glaucoma or POAG. This kind affects nine out of every ten individuals with glaucoma. 

Not even a minor headache will be brought on by POAG. 

Often, this illness doesn’t show symptoms until the partial visual loss has already taken place. The best method to stop irreparable harm is early diagnosis with ocular pressure testing, followed by glaucoma therapy as directed by a specialist. 

Using glaucoma eye drops, taking oral drugs, or having glaucoma surgery can stop or significantly delay the growth of POAG. 

Headaches, ocular hypertension, or glaucoma suspects 

The term “glaucoma suspect” refers to a person who may not truly have glaucoma but who exhibits one or more clinical symptoms that raise their chance of developing the condition. 

Most often, those who may have glaucoma have high intraocular pressure (IOP). Ocular hypertension is the name given to this disorder. 

But, headaches brought on by eye pressure shouldn’t be experienced by glaucoma suspects or individuals with ocular hypertension. 

Headaches with normal-tension glaucoma

Glaucoma can very rarely develop in an eye with a normal IOP. We refer to this as normal-tension glaucoma. 

Normal-tension glaucoma does not result in headaches, similar to open-angle glaucoma. 

Regular, thorough eye exams by an optometrist or ophthalmologist are the only method to identify normal-tension glaucoma. To rule out this and all other forms of glaucoma, your eye doctor will inspect your visual optic nerve during the examination. 

Can glaucoma eye drop cause headaches?

Yes, it’s possible for glaucoma eye drops to cause headaches as a side effect. Some types of eye drops used to treat glaucomas, such as prostaglandin analogs and beta-blockers, can cause headaches in some people. However, not everyone who uses these eye drops will experience headaches, and the severity and frequency of headaches can vary.

If you’re experiencing headaches or any other side effects from glaucoma eye drops, it’s important to talk to your eye doctor. They may be able to adjust your medication or dosage to reduce side effects while still effectively treating your glaucoma. It’s also essential to continue using your medication as prescribed to manage your condition and prevent further vision loss.

What glaucoma signs and symptoms are there? 

glaucoma signs and symptoms

Individuals are curious about the glaucoma early warning signs. The issue is that certain varieties of glaucoma don’t have any early warning signs, and visual abnormalities might occur gradually, making it simple to ignore symptoms. Routine eye exams are crucial for identifying open-angle glaucoma in its early stages because many sufferers don’t exhibit any obvious symptoms. Although glaucoma damage is permanent, early identification and treatment are essential to avoiding blindness. 

The signs and symptoms of closed-angle glaucoma are more severe and frequently appear unexpectedly. 

You may encounter any sort of: 

  • Pressure in the eyes. 
  • Headaches. 
  • Lights with rainbow-colored halos. 
  • Visual problems such as tunnel vision, poor eyesight, blurriness, or blind patches. 
  • Vomiting and nauseous. 
  • Red, injected eyes

Why does glaucoma develop? 

Glaucoma can develop without any known cause, although a number of things can influence it. Intraocular eye pressure is the most crucial of these variables. Aqueous humor, which is produced by your eyes, feeds them. Your pupil allows this fluid to enter the front of your eye. The fluid exits your eye through the drainage canals between your iris and cornea in a healthy eye. 

Your drainage canals experience increased resistance when you have glaucoma. When the fluid has nowhere else to go, it accumulates in your eye. Your eye is under pressure from this extra fluid. This increased eye pressure will eventually harm your optic nerve and cause glaucoma. 

What are the glaucoma risk factors? 

Anybody can develop glaucoma, although the risk rises with age. Compared to other ethnic groups, Black and Hispanic people are far more prone to acquire glaucoma, and the illness often strikes them earlier in life. Angle-closure glaucoma, commonly known as closed-angle glaucoma, affects people of Asian and Inuit descent more frequently. 

Glaucoma is twice as likely to develop in those with diabetes. Additional danger signs consist of: 

  • Glaucoma runs in the family. 
  • Irregular vision or hyperopia (for closed-angle glaucoma). 
  • Hypertension (also known as hypertension) and extremely low blood pressure (hypotension) 
  • Corticosteroid usage over an extended period. 
  • Myopia or nearsightedness (for open-angle glaucoma). 
  • Prior eye surgery or damage.


Headaches and glaucoma are two distinct medical conditions that can sometimes be related.

Headaches are a common ailment experienced by many individuals and can be caused by various factors, such as tension, dehydration, stress, sinus problems, and more. Migraine headaches are a specific type of headache that can be accompanied by symptoms like sensitivity to light, sound, or smells, nausea, and vomiting.

Glaucoma, on the other hand, is a group of eye conditions that can damage the optic nerve, leading to vision loss or blindness. Glaucoma is often caused by high pressure in the eye, but other factors such as genetics, age, and certain medical conditions can also play a role.

In some cases, headaches can be a symptom of glaucoma, especially if the condition is advanced or left untreated. This can occur due to increased pressure in the eye affecting the surrounding nerves and causing pain or discomfort.

However, it’s important to note that headaches are a relatively rare symptom of glaucoma, and most people with glaucoma don’t experience them. If you’re experiencing frequent headaches or vision problems, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment.

Faqs on Can Glaucoma Cause Headaches?

Why do I get a headache and pressure in my eyes? 

Tension headaches and migraines, Two different forms of headaches, tension, and migraine, can cause pressure behind the eyes. Almost 80% of people get tension headaches, which are the most common form of headache. 

What does a glaucoma headache feel like? 

The glaucoma-related headache can range in severity from mild to severe and can be felt in or around the eyes, forehead, or both. The headache may also be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Certain glaucoma types can be confused for migraines. By taking a reading of the pressure inside the eye, a proper diagnosis may be determined. 

What ocular disease results in headaches? 

​Astigmatism, The improper shaping of the cornea leads to astigmatism. It could make it difficult to see clearly and make you squint to focus. It might also result in headaches if left untreated. 

What causes attacks of glaucoma? 

 Glaucoma attacks may result from a number of sources. Attacks may happen if you are very anxious or even overly excited. Using certain drugs, such as antihistamines or antidepressants, might also cause them. A glaucoma episode may also result from certain eye disorders like uveitis or a cataract. 

Where does glaucoma headache occur? 

Glaucoma-related headaches are often felt around the eyes and forehead. An angle-closure glaucoma is a form of glaucoma that typically results in headaches and eye discomfort. Iridocorneal angle closure is the cause of angle-closure glaucoma, commonly referred to as acute angle-closure glaucoma.

Can glaucoma cause headaches and dizziness?

While it’s not common for glaucoma to cause headaches and dizziness, it’s possible in some cases. The symptoms of glaucoma usually involve changes in vision, such as loss of peripheral vision or blurred vision, and sometimes eye pain or discomfort. However, in advanced cases, glaucoma can cause increased pressure in the eye, which can affect the surrounding nerves and blood vessels, leading to headaches or dizziness.

In addition, some people with glaucoma may also have other health conditions that can cause headaches and dizziness, such as high blood pressure or diabetes. These conditions can also contribute to the development and progression of glaucoma.

If you’re experiencing frequent headaches or dizziness, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider. They can help determine the underlying cause of your symptoms and recommend the appropriate treatment. If you have glaucoma, it’s essential to continue using your prescribed medication and attend regular eye exams to manage the condition.

About the Author:
Dr Shaun Larsen

Dr Shaun Larsen

Dr. Shaun Larsen is an optometrist who specializes in low vision services and enhancing vision with contact lenses. He has a passion for making people's lives better by helping them see well enough to read, write, or drive again. He always keeps up with the latest technology so he can help people regain their independence.


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