What is Glaucoma?
First, it’s important to understand what exactly glaucoma is. Once you understand this disease, you will have a better understanding of its symptoms and when to visit an eye doctor about glaucoma-related questions. Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world today. It is typically, but not always, caused by a build-up of fluid in the eye. Glaucoma can result in vision loss and, if left untreated, blindness. However, with early detection and treatment, you can often protect your eyes against any serious glaucoma-related vision loss. Glaucoma usually has no initial symptoms and, therefore, can only be diagnosed through regular eye exams by your eye doctor.
What Causes Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is caused by elevated fluid pressure inside your eye. The liquid in the front part of your eye may not circulate normally. There are mesh-like channels that can become blocked, allowing liquid to build up. The condition is commonly hereditary and, therefore, can be passed from parents to children.
Who Should be Checked for Glaucoma?
If you’re over the age of 40 or have a family history of glaucoma, you should receive complete eye exam from an eye doctor every year. If you have health problems such as diabetes or a family history of glaucoma or are at risk for other eye diseases, you may need to go more often. Because glaucoma’s symptoms can be hard to detect initially, it is important to visit an eye doctor for a comprehensive eye examination.
Without treatment, people with glaucoma will slowly lose their peripheral (side) vision. As glaucoma remains untreated, people may miss objects to the side and out of the corner of their eye. They seem to be looking through a tunnel. Over time, straight-ahead (central) vision may decrease until no vision remains.
How Do You Test for Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is detected through a comprehensive dilated eye exam that includes the following:
- Visual Acuity Test This eye-chart test measures how well you see at various distances.
- Visual Field Test This test measures your peripheral (side)vision. It helps your eye care professional determine if you have lost peripheral vision, which is a sign of glaucoma.
- Dilated eye exam In this exam, drops are placed in your eyes to widen, or dilate, the pupils. Your eye care professional uses a special magnifying lens to examine your retina and optic nerve for signs of damage and other eye problems. After the exam, your close-up vision may remain blurred for several hours.
- Tonometry is the measurement of pressure inside the eye by using an instrument called a tonometer. Numbing drops may be applied to your eye for this test. A tonometer measures pressure inside the eye to detect glaucoma.
- Pachymetry is the measurement of the thickness of your cornea, that influences the pressure readings obtained in the office. Your eye care professional applies a numbing drop to your eye and uses an ultrasonic wave instrument to measure the thickness of your cornea. Knowing this thickness measurement influences how aggressive the treatment plan needs to be.
- Nerve Fiber Analysis (GDx / OCT) scans the retina and creates a detailed map of retinal nerve fiber thickness. This test can be done quickly and does not require pupil dilation. This test can aid in identifying the severity of glaucoma in a patient as well as measuring progression of glaucoma over time.