What You Should Understand About Glaucoma: Risk Factors and Testing

By: Shawn Grant

If it is found early enough, glaucoma can be managed to prevent greater decline in eyesight or vision loss. Although, because they are experienced in a gradual manner, the signs of glaucoma can be hard to notice without an exam performed by an eye doctor. If glaucoma hits an advanced phase without being spotted, it can cause irreversible vision loss.

Glaucoma results from harm to the optic nerve, which is caused by a boost of fluid pressure in the eye or a problem in the optic nerve itself.

The eye should have a certain amount of pressure to let the eyeball keep its shape, because it is full of fluid, known as aqueous humour. In a perfect eye, this fluid moves in and out of the eyeball at a regular rate. If the drainage tubes which carry the fluid away from the eyeball become blocked, strain starts to develop within the eye. This increase in pressure can injure the optic nerve.

Specific factors make an individual more susceptible for developing glaucoma:

- The most important thing to consider is age. The older a person becomes, the greater the chance of glaucoma developing.

- A person with short-sightedness or myopia will have a higher chance to develop glaucoma.

- Another significant factor is one’s family history in identifying those individuals who may be susceptible to glaucoma. If you are a blood relative of an individual with glaucoma, your chances of developing the condition are considerably increased.

- Ethnicity is another factor that can affect both an individual’s odds of developing glaucoma and the type of glaucoma. People of Asian nationality are more susceptible to “closed angle” glaucoma, while people of African or Afro-Caribbean origin are at greater risk to “open angle” glaucoma.

There are six tests that can be given to distinguish glaucoma. It is suggested that everyone over 40 is checked for glaucoma minimally every two years.


For this exam the optometrist inserts eye drops to the eye ball to dilate the pupil. The color and shape of the optic nerve can then be examined. The test is given with a magnifying glass light, which illuminates the back of the eye, making it easier to view the optic nerve. The optometrist may make use of a digital camera to save a photograph of the optic nerve.


The eye is numbed with eye drops and a mirrored lens is placed alongside the eye to test the angle between the iris and the cornea. This is the portion of the eye where fluid drains away. The angle between the iris and the cornea tells the optometrist whether the individual has “open angle” or “closed angle” glaucoma. The beginning stage of “closed angle” glaucoma can be rather painful, while “open angle” glaucoma forms more slowly and can be much more advanced before someone pays attention to any of the warning signs.


A specialist implement is used to puff air into the eye, permitting the optometrist to measure the eye pressure. Greater eye pressure is a significant sign of the presence of glaucoma.


This exam uses a specialist instrument to determine the width of the cornea. By determining the thickness of the cornea, an optometrist can better infer the result of the tonometry exam.

Visual Field Testing (Perimetry):

While the patient being tested looks straight ahead, the optometrist brings out little bright lights at the outside of the patient’s peripheral vision. If the patient has trouble seeing some of the bright lights, it is a possibility that glaucoma has started to affect his or her vision. This test is often times administered by a computer.

Nerve Fiber Analysis:

If the thickness of the optic nerve has been compacted in some spots, this shows that there is damage created by glaucoma.

Make sure you speak with your eye doctor about getting glaucoma testing now!

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