Get regular eye tests
Glaucoma is usually picked up during a routine eye test, often before it causes any noticeable symptoms. Other tests are usually needed afterwards to diagnose and monitor the condition. It is important to have regular eye tests so problems such as glaucoma can be diagnosed and treated as early as possible. Early treatment can help stop your vision becoming severely affected.
You should have an eye test at least every two years. If you are at a higher risk of glaucoma, for example, if you have a close relative with it, you may be advised to have more frequent tests.
There are different tests that can be carried out by an optometrist if they suspect you have glaucoma after a routine eye test. You may also have the following tests to diagnose glaucoma:
• VISUAL ACUITY TEST
The common eye chart test measures how well you can see at various distances.
• PUPIL DILATION
The pupil is widened with eye drops to allow a close-up exam of the eye’s optic nerve and retina.
• VISUAL FIELD
This test measures a person’s side or peripheral vision. Lost peripheral vision may mean a person has glaucoma.
This standard test determines the fluid pressure inside the eye.
• OPTIC NERVE IMAGING
Photographs of the optic nerve are taken to indicate areas of damage.
A lens is placed on the eye to look at the area called the drainage angle. This is where fluid drains from the eye. This test determines whether the drain is open or closed, and if any damage has occurred.
A measurement is taken of corneal thickness.
Glaucoma is often referred to as the silent thief of sight, and for good reason. It slowly damages your optic nerve over time without any symptoms in the early stages before vision loss becomes apparent. There is no cure for glaucoma, which is why early detection and treatment should be your top priority.
Eye drops are often the first step in glaucoma treatment. There are many different kinds that fight glaucoma in different ways. When it comes to treating glaucoma, eye drops will usually be your doctor’s first choice.
According to Dr Camara Brown, ophthalmologist, Glaucoma Clinical Lead at the Kingston Public Hospital, the goal of any glaucoma treatment is to lower the pressure in your eye, and these special eye drops excel at that task.
“Using drops is often the first intervention offered. This requires the patient’s compliance in that they remember to put the drops in at the set times. Drops are costly and indeed Jamaica is one of the places in the world where the relative cost of drops to average income is at its worst. The National Health Fund has greatly assisted this,” Dr Brown said.
When applied directly to your eye, they can either improve how fluid drains from your eye or reduce how much fluid your eye produces.
Eye drops used for glaucoma treatment are not like the kind you buy off the shelf at your pharmacy. Your ophthalmologist will provide you with a prescription for the type of eye drops they think will best serve your needs.
If eye drops are not enough, then your doctor may recommend oral medication to help bolster the fight against glaucoma. You may need surgery if you have advanced glaucoma or cannot use eye drops or oral medication.
The purpose of surgery is to create a new opening for fluid to leave the eye. This can be done by creating a passage for drainage or by implanting a shunt to help drain the fluid. Cataract surgery has been shown to reduce eye pressure in most cataract patients, and in some situations, it may be used as a treatment for glaucoma.
In some cases, a single surgery is not enough to slow down the progress of glaucoma. Repeat surgery and/or continued treatment with medicines may be necessary. Without treatment, glaucoma can cause permanent blindness.
DID YOU KNOW?
• Glaucoma can happen in one eye or both eyes
• Some people with high eye pressure do not get glaucoma and there is a type of glaucoma that happens in people with normal eye pressure
• Normal eye pressure varies by person. What is normal for one person could be high for another