The IGA recommends that everyone over the age of 40 should see an optician (optometrist) or medical eye specialist for an eye test every two years.
This is particularly important for people who have a close blood relative with glaucoma (brother, sister, parent or child), who ideally should be tested from around the age of 35.
When booking an appointment, ask for all three glaucoma tests.
These are painless and can pick up glaucoma long before symptoms are present:
1. Ophthalmoscopy: Viewing the appearance of the optic nerve with a special torch brought close to the eye. This can also be done with a slit-lamp used by many optometrists.
2. Tonometry: A test to measure the pressure within the eye. Most commonly known as the air puff test, noncontact tonometry is used as a screening test in many optometric practices. Alternatively contact tonometry may also be used because it is more accurate and is recognised because a drop of anaesthetic will be put into the eye before the test. Both systems are of value in the initial detection of glaucoma.
3. Perimetry: A test to map any areas of reduced or defective vision in the periphery of the visual field. There are many different instruments that may be used to check the field of vision, but in most cases the patient will be asked to fix their eye on a central dot of light and press a button when they see flashes of light or wavy lines in any direction.
Individually the results of these tests can be inadequate, but together they give a good indication of whether or not you might have glaucoma and should therefore be examined further.
Even if the tests prove to be negative, glaucoma may still develop at a later age so these three tests should be repeated at your next routine eye examination.
As people get older they are increasingly likely to develop glaucoma.
Currently, free eye tests are available under the National Health Service. However the NHS funded test does not pay the optometrist to carry out tonometry or perimetry and some practices make a charge for these tests while others do not.
Make sure when booking the appointment for an eye examination that all three glaucoma tests will be carried out and check whether additional charges will be payable. Not all opticians have suitable equipment, or consider it necessary, to perform all three tests. You can choose to see another optician who will carry out these glaucoma tests.
It is also important to tell the optician if glaucoma is in your family.