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Angle-Closure Glaucoma


Glaucoma represents a group of eye disorders that may cause damage to the optic nerve due to high intraocular pressure. Glaucoma is a degenerative eye disease.

Angle-closure glaucoma is a condition in which the iris in the eye shifts and blocks the exit passageway of the fluid in the front compartment of the eye. This fluid blockage causes a rapid build-up of pressure in the eye.

Angle-closure glaucoma is an emergency condition that requires immediate medical treatment to preserve vision.

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The exact cause of angle-closure glaucoma is unknown. However, factors that play a role in causing the disease include:

  • Narrowing of the drainage angle in the eye—Aging and being farsighted are 2 causes of this narrowing.
  • Injury to the eye

Sometimes certain medications can cause sudden angle-closure glaucoma. These include:

  • Adrenergics
  • Anticholinergics
  • Botulism injections around the eye
  • Sulfa-based drugs
  • Phenothiazines and monoamine oxidase inhibitors
  • Medications to treat Parkinson disease

Risk Factors

Angle-closure glaucoma is more common in older adults and in Asian people. Other factors that may increase your chance of developing angle-closure glaucoma include:

  • Family history of narrow angle glaucoma
  • Injury to the eye
  • Eye drops used to dilate the eyes
  • Certain systemic medications
  • Developing cataracts


Patients with narrow angles experience few or no symptoms until the disease has progressed to an acute angle-closure attack. Symptoms may include:

  • Severe pain in the eye
  • Pupil not reacting to light
  • Blurred or cloudy vision
  • Sudden vision loss
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Redness and swelling of the eye
  • Headache


You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You will be referred to an eye specialist (ophthalmologist).

Tests may include:

  • Eye exam
  • Tonometry —a test to determine intraocular pressure
  • Slit lamp examination—the use of a low-power microscope combined with a high-intensity light source, allows a narrow beam that can be focused to examine the front of the eye
  • Gonioscopy—to examine the outflow channels of the angle


Angle-closure glaucoma requires emergency medical treatment to preserve vision. See an ophthalmologist right away if you have any signs or symptoms of an angle-closure glaucoma attack. Treatment options include:

  • Medications—Eye drops, pills, and sometimes even IV drugs are given to reduce intraocular pressure.
  • Surgery—Surgery may be used to stop or prevent an attack of angle-closure glaucoma. This is usually done by laser.


Angle-closure glaucoma can't be prevented. Regular eye exams are important to screen for eye conditions such as glaucoma.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: Eric Berman, MD
  • Review Date: 05/2015 -
  • Update Date: 05/26/2015 -
  • The Glaucoma Foundation

  • Glaucoma Research Foundation

  • Glaucoma Research Society of Canada

  • The Canadian Ophthalmological Society

  • Angle-closure glaucoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated April 17, 2015. Accessed May 26, 2015.

  • Angle-closure glaucoma. Glaucoma Research Foundation website. Available at: Updated January 14, 2015. Accessed May 26, 2015.

  • Facts about glaucoma. National Eye Institute website. Available at: Accessed May 26, 2015.

  • Vision screening recommendations for adults 40 to 60. Eye Smart—American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Available at: Accessed May 26, 2015.

  • Vision screening recommendations for adults over 60. American Academy of Ophthalmology Eye Smart website. Available at: Accessed May 26, 2015.

  • Vision screening recommendations for adults under 40. American Academy of Ophthalmology Eye Smart website. Available at: Accessed May 26, 2015.

  • What is glaucoma? American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Available at: Updated December 5, 2014. Accessed May 26, 2015.

The health information in this Health Library is provided by a third party. Parkridge Health System does not in any way create the content of this information. It is provided solely for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for proper medical care provided by a physician. Always consult with your doctor for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations. Do not rely on information on this site as a tool for self-diagnosis. If you have a medical emergency, call 911.