Three million people in the United States have been diagnosed with glaucoma, and several million are over the age of 40.
Glaucoma is very common, but how do you know you have it? What is the glaucoma testing like?
In this article, we’ll explore glaucoma and what to expect when you think you need to see a doctor.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a general term to describe an eye disease that results from damage to the optic nerves. Optic nerves are responsible for submitting images to the brain by using the retina. Blindness and vision loss are possible outcomes when glaucoma is too advanced to respond to treatments.
Types of Glaucoma
There are two different types of glaucoma.
Open-angle glaucoma or wide-angle glaucoma is the most common. Your eyes have drain canals, and when these become unable to drain, pressure builds up and harms the optic nerves. The drain canal does not look any different, but it doesn’t work as well.
A less common form of glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma or narrow-angle glaucoma, in which the space between the iris and the cornea narrows and creates pressure behind the eye. It’s not uncommon, however, to also experience farsightedness and cataracts alongside angle-closure glaucoma.
Symptoms of Glaucoma
Because glaucoma covers a wide range of eye disorders, sometimes the symptoms are varied.
Symptoms of both open-angle and angle-closure glaucoma are:
- Pressure in the eye
- Blurred vision
- Severe pain
- Halos around objects or subjects or lighting
- Nausea or vomiting
- Redness in the eyes
- The eye is tender to the touch
For open-angle glaucoma, there are no symptoms until it’s progressed significantly leading to blindness. This is why it’s paramount to receive routine eye exams as you age. If glaucoma is caught before it becomes too advanced, treatments are possible.
Who Gets Glaucoma?
Technically speaking anyone can develop glaucoma. But there’s a strong indication that it’s genetic. Other high-risk factors include being an African American over 40 years of age, or people over 60, and having diabetes or high blood pressure.
What to Expect at Glaucoma Tests
At a glaucoma eye test, your doctor may perform a variety of different methods to assess whether or not you have glaucoma. The good news is that these tests are pain-free and short. There are five types of glaucoma tests doctors use to gain an overall understanding of the type of glaucoma you have.
This type of testing involves testing your vision, which informs the doctor of how glaucoma has impacted your vision. Glaucoma profoundly affects your peripheral vision, and this test uses lights to gauge how much has been lost. Remember to answer all questions honestly, so the doctor fully understands how to treat you.
If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, perimetry testing is done a handful of times a year to see how your vision has changed.
Optic nerve damage is the central reason why glaucoma occurs. Ophthalmoscopy lets the doctor check for any damage to the optic nerves by using eye drops. They will then use an instrument with light to magnify your optic nerve and search for damage. If they find anything strange, the doctor will perform other tests.
A tool called a tonometer is used during this procedure. It measures your eye pressure. A doctor numbs the eye by using eye drops then takes the tonometer to find eye pressure.
Eye pressure is measured in millimeters using mercury, or mm Hg. Normal eye pressure range is anywhere from 12-22 mm Hg, but for those with glaucoma, it exceeds 20 mm Hg.
A gonioscopy is a procedure that looks at the angle between the iris and the cornea. If the angle is narrow or open, this helps determine glaucoma. Eye drops are used once again to numb the eye, and the doctor uses a contact lens with a mirror to view the angle.
At first, a pachymetry sounds painful. A pachymetry measures the thickness of your cornea, using a probe, but it’s quite painless. The procedure isn’t lengthy but is necessary because the cornea thickness affects the eye pressure.
After the Diagnosis and Treatment
Receiving a glaucoma diagnosis can be frustrating and disheartening. Right now, there is no cure for glaucoma. However, there are treatments and methods that doctors prescribe to alleviate symptoms.
Depending on the severity of your glaucoma, and with what type you’re diagnosed, your treatments could vary.
The most common form of treatment is eye drops or pills. These drops can have different purposes such as relieving pressure in the eye, discourage the eye to make fluid, or help the eye drain fluid. You should follow the directions correctly as your doctor orders, but inform them if they begin to cause stinging, burning, redness, or interfering with other medications.
A procedure called laser trabeculoplasty is also available and uses intense beams of light to help the eye drain more efficiently. Even though laser trabeculoplasty is very effective, it could wear off over time.
A surgery called a trabeculectomy is a last resort if pills, drops, and laser trabeculoplasty fail. You’ll be expected to apply drops and take medication to fight any infection. Only one eye can be done at a time.
Glaucoma Testing: Don’t Ignore It
Catching glaucoma in its early stages is vital to receiving proper treatment. Once you start experiencing symptoms, it’s more challenging to treat. These glaucoma tests serve to help you make the best of your situation for as long as possible.
Are you looking for an optometrist to check for the onset of eye disease? See how our team of qualified professionals can assist you!