WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Glaucoma is a complicated disease in which damage to the optic nerve leads to progressive and irreversible vision loss. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness. There are often no symptoms until it is too late.
Who Gets Glaucoma?
Virtually anyone can get glaucoma, but certain groups are at a higher risk.
People at high risk for glaucoma should get a complete eye exam, including eye dilation, every one or two year.
The following groups are at a higher risk for developing glaucoma.
- People over 60
- Family members of those with glaucoma
- African Americans
- Hispanics in older age groups
- Steroid users
- Eye injury
Other possible risk factors include:
- High myopia (nearsightedness)
- Thyroid disease
When Should I Get Checked For Glaucoma?
Early detection, through regular and complete eye exams, is the key to protecting your vision from damage caused by glaucoma. It is important to have your eyes examined regularly.
Your eyes should be tested:
- Before age 40, every two to four years
- From age 40 to age 54, every one to three years
- From age 55-64, every one to two years
- After age 65, every 12 months
- Anyone with risk factors, should be tested every year or two starting at 35.
A Comprehensive Glaucoma Exam
Regular glaucoma check-ups include two routine eye tests: tonometry and ophthalmoscopy. Tonometry measures the pressure within your eye. During tonometry, eye drops are used to numb the eye. Then a doctor or technician uses a tool called a tonometer to measure the inner pressure of the eye.
Ophthalmoscopy and Optic Nerve Imaging are diagnostic procedures which help the doctor examine your optic nerve for glaucoma damage. Eye drops are used to dilate the pupil so that the doctor can see through your eye to examine the shape and color of the optic nerve. Special laser scans or photographs are sometimes taken to monitor for microscopic changes in the nerve tissue over time.
The doctor will then use a small tool with a light on the end to light and magnify the optic nerve. If your intraocular pressure is not within the normal range or if the optic nerve looks unusual, your doctor may ask you to have one or two more glaucoma exams: perimetry and gonioscopy.
Perimetry is a visual field test that produces a map of your complete field of vision. This test will help a doctor determine whether your vision has been affected by glaucoma. After glaucoma has been diagnosed, visual field tests are usually done to two times a year to check for any changes in your vision.
This diagnostic exam helps determine whether the angle where the iris meets the cornea is open and wide or narrow and closed. During the exam, eye drops are used to numb the eye. A special hand-held contact lens is gently placed on the eye.
Pachymetry is a simple, painless test to measure the thickness of your cornea – the clear window at the front of the eye. A probe called a pachymeter is gently placed on the front of the eye (the cornea) to measure its thickness. The procedure takes only about a minute to measure both eyes.
Why Are There So Many Diagnostics Exams?
Diagnosing glaucoma is not always easy, and careful evaluation of the optic nerve continues to be essential to diagnosis and treatment. The most important concern is protecting your sight. Doctors look at many factors before making decisions about your treatment. Glaucoma is a disease that requires careful and sometimes frequent monitoring. January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, and a good time to schedule a visit with a physician.
Gaurang J. Trivedi MD MPH FAAO, is Director of Glaucoma, Mount Sinai Health System and CareMount. Contact Dr. Trivedi's office at 845-278-7000 or 914-241-1050 for an appointment.