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Diagnosis of Glaucoma

by Mary Calvagna, MS

Glaucoma can be diagnosed with a series of tests given by a eye care specialist These tests are given during an eye exam that is conducted in the eye care professional's office. The exam will begin with the eye care professional or staff person asking you questions about your personal and medical history and your family's medical history.

To detect glaucoma, your eye care professional will do the following:

Visual acuity - This test measures how well you see at various distances. You will be asked to look at a chart of letters or numbers and identify what you see.

Tonometry - This test measures the pressure inside the eye. There are several types of tonometry; in air tonometry, a puff of air is sent onto the cornea to take the measurement. Another type uses a plastic prism that lightly pushes against your eye in order to measure your intraocular pressure. For this test, the eye is first numbed with an eye drop.

Gonioscopy-The eye care professional can see the drainage angle of your eye using a special lens. This can help determine if you are at risk for closed-angle glaucoma.

Pupil dilation - Drops are put in your eyes that enlarge/dilate your pupils. This allows the eye care professional to see more of the inside of your eye. Your close-up (near) vision may remain blurred for several hours afterwards.

Ophthalmoscopy - Once your pupils are dilated, the eye care professional will examine your optic nerve and the rest of your retina with an instrument called an ophthalmoscope. The color and appearance of the optic nerve may indicate if damage from glaucoma is present and how extensive it is.

Perimetry (visual field test) - This test produces a map of your field of vision. It is used to check whether there is damage to any area of vision.

Pachymetry - Your physician may measure the thickness of your cornea using a special machine called a corneal pachymeter.

If the eye care professional finds evidence that you have glaucoma, you might begin a treatment program. Glaucoma cannot be cured, but treatment can help control the disease.


American Academy of Ophthalmology

Glaucoma Research Institute

National Eye Institute

Last reviewed September 2003 by Marc Ellman, MD

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