It is important to note that with glaucoma, regularly scheduled eye examinations, and scheduled follow-up examinations are essential to best manage the disease. Alberta Health Care covers medically necessary examinations. Disclaimer: The following information is not meant to replace an eye examination. Please consult with your eye care provider about your eyes and their health.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the progressive loss of nerve tissue within the optic nerve. It is often characterized as the loss of peripheral vision; leading to tunnel vision, and ultimately blindness. Symptoms are often unnoticed until the later stages of the disease.
How is Glaucoma Detected?
A comprehensive eye examination involving a thorough medical history, and eye health evaluation will uncover warning signs indicative of glaucoma to prompt for further testing. Classically, glaucoma was seen as disease of high fluid pressures within the eyes (intraocular pressure or IOP); however, there are variations of glaucoma where the pressure is measured to be within the accepted normal ranges. Tonometry is the method by which intraocular pressure is measured and is a standard test within the eye exam. Ultimately, an evaluation of the optic nerve is necessary with careful measurements detailing the characteristics of the optic nerve head. Due to glaucoma being a progressive disease, changes in the optic nerve structure are indicators of a glaucoma disease process. Currently, digital imaging of the optic nerve is being utilized for analysis and time lapse comparison.
When glaucoma is suspected, additional tests are required before treatment is initiated.
- Visual Field Testing: A functional exam detailing our sensitivities in our peripheral vision. It is often repeated at different intervals to assess for changes.
- Tonometry: Repeated measurements of the pressure in the eye. Pressures tend to vary throughout the day, and an evaluation of its pattern will help tailor treatment.
- Pachymetry: The measurement of the thickness of the cornea. Corneal thickness can affect the measurements of intraocular pressure.
- Ophthalmoscopy: A visual evaluation by your eye care provider of the optic nerve with the use of a slit-lamp microscope.
- Nerve Fiber Analysis: A laser scan evaluation of the structure of the nerve and the nerve fibers within it.
What can be done?
Currently, the main method of managing glaucoma is by controlling the pressure. The goal is to lower the pressure to a level where there is no longer progressive vision loss. Treatment often starts with the use of medicated drops. If further treatment is warranted, there are both laser and surgical techniques which can be implemented in conjunction with drops.
This page is intended for information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice.