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Angle-Closure Glaucoma(Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma; Single 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.


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.

Last reviewed May 2015 by Eric Berman, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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