If you’re a glaucoma suspect, you want to do everything possible to prevent vision loss. The first step is to get informed. The second step is to follow through with regular monitoring. We’ll talk about both in today’s blog. Learn what it means to be a glaucoma suspect and how your eye doctor will monitor your status, so you can be a proactive participant in your own eye health.
What is a Glaucoma Suspect?
There’s no definitive way to diagnose open angle glaucoma in the earliest stages, so your eye doctor will use his/her best judgment to decide if you should be considered a glaucoma suspect based on your combination of risk factors. Most commonly, they look for elevated eye pressure or a strong family history of glaucoma. However, there are several other risk factors to consider as well:
- Over age 40
- African, Hispanic or Asian heritage
- Farsightedness or nearsightedness
- Eye injury in the past
- Long-term use of steroids
- Thin corneas
- Optic nerve thinning
- Diabetes, migraines, high blood pressure, poor blood circulation (health problems that affect the whole body)
What Does Glaucoma Monitoring Involve?
A low-risk glaucoma suspect should be checked every six to twelve months. Your eye doctor will measure your eye pressure, side vision (visual field), and thickness of the cornea. He/she will also examine your nerve fiber layer thickness around the optic nerve and the drainage area of the eye. The most important part is the careful examination of the optic nerve itself and comparisons of those examinations over time. Damage to your optic nerve is what causes vision loss.
There are some new technologies that can help eye doctors monitor your glaucoma. These won’t replace the need for regular exams but could reduce the number of trips necessary – and improve accuracy. Here are two examples of technology to measure your intraocular pressure (eye pressure), which is a critical piece of the assessment for glaucoma suspects:
- The Triggerfish (Sensimed AG) contact lens has a built-in sensor that could help identify patients at higher risk of glaucoma progression by automatically recording continuous eye pressure changes over the course of 24 hours.
- The Icare® HOME is designed for patients to measure their eye pressure at home. This tool has easy-to-use indicator lights properly align the instrument for precision. And best of all, no uncomfortable puff of air.
When Would Glaucoma Treatment Begin?
Your eye doctor will assess your risk factors, your examination findings, and talk through the options with you after each appointment. Some patients are comfortable with regular monitoring unless there’s a major concern. However, others would rather begin treatment and have peace of mind. If you do pursue treatment, you may need more frequent office visits, especially if there are more risk factors present.
If you’re a glaucoma suspect, it’s important to ask your eye doctor plenty of questions so you feel confident about the decision to monitor or treat. Since glaucoma develops so slowly (and without noticeable symptoms), monitoring is your first line of defense in preventing disease progression – and permanent vision loss.