World Glaucoma Week 2017 #6 – March 17

Sinisterly Silent Sight-Stealing Disease

A view of what of how two little boys holding a ball appear through the eyes of a person with glaucoma.
Courtesy: National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health (NEI/NIH).

As a glaucoma patient, I realize how critical it is for those living glaucoma and their family members to understand the nature of this eye disease, how it is diagnosed, and then managed. It is my hope that by sharing my personal experience as well as what I’ve learned along the way will help you to be more informed.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, a glaucoma screening that only checks your eye pressure is not enough to detect the disease. Years ago I used to have the puff test where a puff of air is blown into the eye to measure its pressure but over the course of the past eleven years, I’ve had what looks like a pen (tonometer) or doohicky placed on the eye (pachymeter) testing to obtain this measurement. Since numbing drops are used in the eyes prior to tonometer or pachymeter test there is no pain or discomfort.

While my eye pressure was consistently high for an extended period of time the diagnosis during this period was ocular hypertension. It should be noted that in addition to the tonometer and pachymeter tests, to provide the doctors with a more comprehensive view of my retinas I was having regular OCT scans. At some point during this process, my retina specialist put me on a trial run of Xalatan (eye drops for glaucoma) to see how my pressure would respond.

Multiple issues in addition to ocular hypertension, high myopia, macular holes, torn retina, and cataracts I’m sure made it a little challenging to get a definitive glaucoma diagnosis. If memory serves I think the field testing by my ophthalmologist along with high-risk factors and sustained ocular hypertension sealed the deal. As a result, I now have to see the ophthalmologist every 3 – 4 months and for the rest of my life I will continue to taking glaucoma eye drops every night.

Since I am not an eye doctor I would think my path to a glaucoma diagnosis probably is not the norm, however, the Glaucoma Foundation provides the following helpful list of tests which I’ve defined:

  • Tonometer – an instrument for measuring tension or pressure, especially intraocular pressure*.
  • Pachymeter – an instrument used to measure thickness, especially of a thin structure, such as a membrane or a tissue*.
  • Visual Field Test – is an eye examination that can detect dysfunction in central and peripheral vision which may be caused by various medical conditions such as glaucoma*.
  • Ophthalmoscopy – an instrument for examining the interior structures of the eye, especially the retina, consisting essentially of a mirror that reflects light into the eye and a central hole through which the eye is examined*.
  • Imaging Technology – is the application of materials and methods to create, preserve, or duplicate images*.
  • Gonioscopy – describes the use of a goniolens (also known as a gonioscope) in conjunction with a slit lamp or operating microscope to gain a view of the iridocorneal angle, or the anatomical angle formed between the eye’s cornea and iris*.

If you have a moment, check out the above list from the Glaucoma Foundation as their explanations on each of the procedures is in laymen’s terms. The added benefit of this site is all the additional information they provide on glaucoma.

Have a great Friday!!

*SourceMedical Dictionary


  1. Thanks, Steph. It would be great to have a cure. Your posts have surely helped shed a light on the subject.

  2. Sorry to hear that you have a family history of glaucoma but it sounds like you’re on top of it. It amazes me that there is still so much more to learn about this eye disease. Hopefully a cure will be forthcoming in the near future.

  3. I think I’ve had most of these tests done. I have a family history of glaucoma, and I have been taking the eye drops (Lumigan) for quite a while now. Hopefully, that’s all I’ll need.

  4. You’re welcome Caroline. Before I was diagnosed I had no idea either. I thought all the initial pressure taking tests were enough but I was wrong.

  5. Hey Paul! Thanks I’m glad you found this informative. The tonometer really does look like a pen and it barely touches the surface of the eye. I much prefer this test to the air puff and even the pachymeter. While there really isn’t any pain involved with any of these tests with the pachymeter I have a hard time keeping totally still as the device comes towards my eye. I remember the first time I had it done as it was getting closer I said is that thing going to touch my eye and the response I received was “no, it’s only going to touch the tears” or something to that effect. My thing was if it’s touching tears or fluid it’s touching the eye.

  6. Steph, this was an informative post for me! I’d never heard of a Tonometer or Pachymeter, much less the benefit that can be derived from either instrument. Sounds way too important not to look into these procedures.

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