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My sight is fine - why test for glaucoma?

With a simple eye test, your optometrist could not only pick up eye conditions such as:

  • Glaucoma
  • Cataract
  • Macular degeneration
  • Dry eye
  • Inflammation of the cornea

But they could also detect the signs of other conditions including:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Thyroidtoxicosis
  • Auto-immune disorders
  • Pituitary tumours
  • Raised cholesterol
  • Shingles

Am I at risk of glaucoma?

  • Are you over 40?
  • Do you have a family history of glaucoma?
  • Are you short sighted?
  • Do you have diabetes?
  • Are you of African-Caribbean origin?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then you are at increased risk and should definitely have your eyes tested regularly (at least every two years).

What is glaucoma?

There are various types of glaucoma but primary open angle glaucoma (POAG), also known as chronic glaucoma, is the most common. It has no symptoms in the early stages, but slowly and painlessly destroys sight if it is not detected and treated. The loss of vision cannot be reversed. It mainly affects middle aged and elderly people, although it can develop in younger people. The earlier glaucoma is detected, the more successful the treatment.

Even if you seem to have excellent sight, this doesn't rule out glaucoma because:

Glaucoma initially destroys the off centre vision, leaving the central detailed vision unaffected until a later stage. Blank patches in the field of vision may go unnoticed as the less affected eye 'completes the picture'. Glaucoma does not affect the ability of the eye to focus and the condition may be present even though vision seems fine without the need for glasses.

You could lose a considerable amount of sight irretrievably before you are aware of a problem.

What are the glaucoma tests?

The only way you can know for certain whether or not you have glaucoma is to arrange to have a sight test which includes all three glaucoma tests. These tests are rapid and painless. They are: ophthalmoscopy, tonometry and perimetry/visual field testing.

A combination of all three tests has been shown to increase the likelihood of detecting chronic glaucoma by four times when compared with ophthalmoscopy alone1. If your optician is not able to perform all three tests, then find one who is. However, the optometrist can make an additional charge for carrying out tonometry and perimetry even if the rest of the test is paid for by the NHS, so it is always worth checking this when arranging a test.

Be aware that the likelihood of developing glaucoma and other eye diseases increases with age, so regular eye tests (at least every two years) are essential to ensure early diagnosis and optimum eye health.

How is glaucoma treated?

Treatment for chronic glaucoma is usually with eye drops. Laser treatment or surgery may be necessary in some cases. The good news is that once it is detected and treated, most people retain useful vision for a lifetime.

Glaucoma left untreated may lead to tunnel vision and, eventually, to blindness. It is estimated that approximately 2% of people over the age of 40 will have glaucoma. 13% of those on the blind register have glaucoma of some type.

Don't be a statistic – give yourself peace of mind.

Arrange an eye test today!


Related links

Arranging a test for glaucoma

I am a Patient

I am a Patient – Treatment


1 Relative effectiveness of different modes of glaucoma screening in optometric practice. Ophthal. Physiol. Opt. 1993; 13: 227-232

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