Glaucoma: Detection & Treatment

It is estimated that over 3 million Americans have glaucoma but only half of those know they have it. And, according to the World Health Organization, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world.

People at heightened risk for developing glaucoma include:

  • People over the age of 60
  • People with diabetes
  • People who have family with diagnosed glaucoma
  • People who are severely nearsighted

Detecting Glaucoma

A dilated eye exam can detect a variety of eye conditions including macular degeneration, retinal issues, and glaucoma.

Glaucoma refers to a group of progressive diseases in which cells and fibers of the optic nerve are damaged, affecting the transmission of signals from the eye to the brain. Because glaucoma often doesn’t present bothersome symptoms until later in its progression, regular eye examinations are critical in the early detection of the problem.

During a comprehensive eye exam, your doctor will perform tonometry—a test that measures the fluid pressure within the eye (also known as intraocular pressure or IOP). Some refer to tonometry as the “puff of air” test, though there are advancements in technology available that can accurately detect levels of IOP without the traditional puff of air.

The normal range of eye pressure is 10 to 21 mmHg. If your eye pressure results read higher than 21 mmHg, you may undergo additional testing such as dilation to diagnose glaucoma. Dilation is performed by administering drops into the eye which cause the pupils to widen, giving your eye doctor a clear view into the back of your eye. This allows the doctor to view your optic nerve for signs of glaucoma.

Treating Glaucoma

The recommended treatment approach for glaucoma depends on the form of glaucoma (open-angle, angle-closure, congenital, normal-tension, secondary, pigmentary…the list goes on) and the stage or severity of glaucoma.

Glaucoma is a chronic condition with no cure. Although it cannot be reversed or cured, it can be treated in a way that stops further loss of vision. Treatment options for glaucoma may include medicated eye drops or effective in-office laser procedures such as selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT). Treatment for glaucoma is highly customized and will always be discussed at length with your eye health provider at the time of diagnosis.