How to ensure glaucoma is detected early

How to ensure glaucoma is detected early

Posted on 15th March 2017

This week is World Glaucoma Week which has prompted us to encourage people to ensure they have regular checks. The earlier signs are spotted, the earlier it can be managed and treated. Our optometrist, and clinical lead, Gillian Bruce has a special interest in glaucoma and encourages you to ask some key questions when you go for an eye examination.

What equipment does your optician/optometrist use?

Specialist technology and tests are an essential part of early glaucoma detection. The OCT scanner identifies changes in the eye that other equipment might not pick up until the disease has progressed further, so ensure this is part of your examination. In addition, you should have a visual fields test, a test of the pressure in your eye and a slit lamp examination of the front of your eye.

Does your optician/optometrist have glaucoma-specific training?

It is also worth ensuring that your optometrist is highly qualified and experienced, including glaucoma-specific training. The Diploma in Independent Prescribing covers glaucoma management in great detail, so you can take extra reassurance if your optometrist has their IP qualification.

Does your optician/optometrist follow the SIGN glaucoma referral guidelines?

I was part of a small multidisciplinary group (along with ophthalmologists and glaucoma specialists and researchers) who wrote the SIGN glaucoma referral guidelines. These are the clinical guidelines that all optometrists in Scotland are advised to follow when managing patients with potential glaucoma and when referring patients for hospital care. SIGN has produced very informative patient information guides which your optometrist should be able to offer you at your appointment.

Most importantly please ensure you have your eyes examined regularly. At least every two years but annually if you fall into any of these at risk groups:

Most at risk:

  • Family – if you have a close relative who has glaucoma then you should have regular eye exams, particularly if you are over 40.
  • Myopia – people with high levels of myopia (short-sightedness) are more prone to open angle glaucoma.
  • Diabetes – believed to increase the risk of developing this condition.
  • Age – glaucoma becomes much more common with increasing age. It is uncommon below the age of 40 but affects five per cent of those over 65.
  • Race – if you are of African origin you are more at risk of open angle glaucoma: it may occur earlier in life and be more severe. Closed angle glaucoma occurs more commonly in people of Asian origin.


  • open angle glaucoma presents commonly with no visual symptoms which is why regular routine eye tests are so important in the detection of this disease.
  • Glaucoma can cause headaches and tenderness around the eye.
  • For rarer cases of closed angle glaucoma, the affected eye may become red, or you may see misty rainbow coloured rings around white lights or just a sudden deterioration in sight. There may also be nausea and vomiting.

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