When is a Glaucoma Screening Necessary?

By Eye Institute of Houston
August 15, 2019

It is advisable for people of all ages to maintain regular eye exams. Visits to the eye doctor go beyond evaluating how well you see. A thorough, comprehensive eye exam also looks at the important structures of the eyes. One of the benefits of routine eye exams is the earliest possible detection of potentially serious eye diseases such as glaucoma. This eye disease is the second leading cause of blindness in our country. There is no cure, only methods of management. Therefore, the earlier we know a person’s risk for glaucoma, the better.

Experts recommend that glaucoma screenings begin sometime around age 40. Every year or two thereafter, screening may be repeated. This is especially important for individuals with a family history of glaucoma or certain risk factors, such as:

  • Advancing age. Risks increase after age 60.
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure).
  • Severe nearsightedness.
  • History of eye injury.
  • African American heritage (risk is 6 to 8 times greater).

What Glaucoma Screening Involves

Testing for glaucoma may involve one or more of the following:

  • Ophthalmoscopy, a dilated eye exam that observes the shape and color of the optic nerve. Dilating the eyes with eye drops widens the pupil to allow optimal visual evaluation of the back of the eye. Glaucoma damages the optic nerve, the part of the eye that sends visual information to the brain. If the optic nerve appears unusual, further tests may be performed.
  • Tonometry measures the amount of pressure in the eye, called intraocular pressure. The tonometer device is briefly placed against the front surface of the eye after numbing eye drops have been administered. Alternatively, intraocular pressure may be measured using a quick burst of air.
  • Pachymetry is a final test that observes intraocular pressure. This may be done if other tests such as tonometry indicate an elevation of pressure in the eye. Pachymetry is quick and painless, performed with numbing eye drops. It involves placing a small instrument onto the cornea to measure thickness. This is an important measurement because corneal thickness can alter intraocular pressure readings. Measuring the thickness of the cornea improves the accuracy of intraocular pressure data.
  • Perimetry is a visual test that maps the total field of vision. The easy test observes the value of peripheral (side) vision.
  • Gonioscopy, also performed with numbing eye drops, evaluates the angle where the cornea and the iris meet to determine if that angle is narrow, wide, or closed.

If you are over the age of 40 and have not undergone a glaucoma screening, talk with your eye doctor. We’re happy to schedule a visit for you at our Belaire, TX office. Call (713) 668-7337.

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