When Should You Get Tested for Glaucoma?

May 7th 2016

Early detection of glaucoma means immediate treatment options before your eyesight gets worse. Some forms of glaucoma may have no symptoms, and some signs may not become apparent until you notice blindness more readily. Although there is no cure, detecting glaucoma early gives you a better chance to mitigate symptoms.

Age-Based Testing Criteria

In general, you should get eye exams more regularly as you get older. A complete, regular eye exam includes a test for glaucoma. Receive an eye exam every two to four years when you are under 40 years of age. Reduce that period to every one to three years between 40 and 54. From ages 55 to 64, get an eye exam every one to two years. You should have your eyes checked every six to 12 months once you turn 65.

Ethnic Risk Factors

Doctors recommend people with risk factors receive a complete eye exam, including dilation, every one to two years after the age of 35. If you have certain risk factors, you should consult with an ophthalmologist regularly. Some risk factors have multiple criteria.

African Americans have six to eight times more cases of glaucoma than Caucasians. People over the age of 60, regardless of ethnicity, are six times more likely to develop glaucoma than younger patients. Hispanics and Asians are more likely to get glaucoma, as compared to people of European ancestry. Asians seem to be susceptible to angle-closure glaucoma, a form of the disease that accounts for less than 10 percent of all cases.

Other Risk Factors

Primary open-angle glaucoma, the most prevalent form of this condition, is hereditary. A family history of glaucoma increases your risk four to nine times, especially if an immediate family member has the disease. Steroid users may have higher risks for open-angle glaucoma, including people with severe asthma who use steroid-based inhalers for their lungs.

Other risk factors include eye injuries, hypertension, high myopia and a central corneal thickness of less than 0.5 millimeters. Blunt injuries that bruise the eye may lead to traumatic glaucoma. These injuries prevent the eye from draining properly.

Types of Tests

Your ophthalmologist may perform several tests to diagnose glaucoma. The goal of these detection methods is to diagnose glaucoma as early as possible so treatments become more effective. Most of these tests occur when your doctor dilates your pupils with anesthetizing eye drops.

A tonometer measures the pressure in your eyes with a lamp and a special lens that move very close to your eyes. Your doctor uses a special probe, called a pachymeter, to measure central corneal thickness, which includes information that helps your ophthalmologist interpret an eye pressure reading. A computerized visual field test determines how well your peripheral vision works, and this test is performed because glaucoma typically affects peripheral vision first. An ophthalmoscope allows your eye doctor to look directly at the optic nerve through your pupil. A gonioscopy examines the angle at which fluid drains from the eye using a special lens with mirrors.

Several imaging systems take computerized measurements of areas of the eye damaged by glaucoma. These advanced systems include scanning laser tomography, laser polarimetry and ocular coherence tomography.

Conclusion

Glaucoma represents the leading cause of blindness in the United States, with more than 120,000 Americans blind from the disease. More than 3 million Americans may have glaucoma, although only half of those people know that they have it. Ophthalmologists recommend regular testing based on the age of the individual and on certain risk factors.

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