Regular eye tests play an important role in the management of all types of glaucoma. They allow your optometrist to measure its progression by monitoring changes to the pressure in your eye (intraocular pressure or IOP) and assess whether you have lost any field of vision.
As part of our home eye tests, our visiting opticians can use specialist equipment to carry out a number of tests to help monitor and detect glaucoma within the comfort of your home — which is essential for people who have, or are at risk of developing, glaucoma and are unable leave their home unaccompanied.
What role does eye pressure play in glaucoma development?
If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma, you might know that the disease develops due to increased pressure within the eye, caused by an imbalance in the production and drainage of fluid (known as aqueous humour) in the eye. This pressure tends to build up over time, which is why glaucoma is sometimes considered to be an age-related eye condition. If your eye pressure becomes too high, it can damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss. This damage is irreversible and usually affects peripheral (side) vision first, progressing over time to affect central vision.
How can home eye pressure tests help manage glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of complex diseases that require long-term management. It’s important for people diagnosed with glaucoma, or are at a high risk of developing the condition, to be monitored regularly in order to prevent or limit vision loss.
Home glaucoma tests allow optometrists to monitor the development and progression of glaucoma in people who are unable to visit their local opticians or hospital appointments unaccompanied. Eye pressure is not a fixed value, it fluctuates over time. Home IOP measurements and other eye tests for glaucoma can therefore provide important information to your optometrist about the progression of the disease, and help them to ensure that you are receiving the right treatment by referring you back to your hospital or GP if necessary.
How do opticians test eye pressure (IOP) at home?
Testing eye pressure at home is very similar to what you might experience at your local opticians.
Our visiting opticians carry out eye pressure tests at home using a piece of equipment called an iCare tonometer, which is handheld. Unlike the air puff method you might have had at the opticians, most people say they can’t feel it at all when the pressure is tested with the iCare, and because it is handheld, it’s great for people who have difficulty sitting up close to a piece of equipment and keeping still.
What other tests for glaucoma can be carried out at home?
Regular eye pressure testing is just one method of monitoring and managing glaucoma at home. Damage to the optic nerve (the nerve which connects the eye to the brain) is a key factor in glaucoma development.
Your optometrist will examine the back of your eyes with a direct ophthalmoscope. This is a handheld instrument that shines a light into your eye and allows the optometrist to assess the structures at the back of the eye. In glaucoma typically the head of the optic nerve, referred to as the disc, becomes damaged and can look ‘cupped’ (like looking down into a cup from the top) and paler than normal. This can be indicative of glaucoma and might result in you being referred to hospital if you are not already receiving treatment for glaucoma.
If you have already been diagnosed, then any changes in the appearance of the disc are monitored each time you have your eyes examined. Any significant change will be reported to your ophthalmologist.
Visual field testing is another way to test for glaucoma and its progression, as this is usually where related vision loss begins. Your optometrist can use a portable field screener to measure this. If you know you have glaucoma and have not recently had a visual field check, please let us know when you book your home test so that your optometrist can make sure they bring the correct equipment with them.
Although glaucoma monitoring should be done under the care of an ophthalmologist, those diagnosed with glaucoma who are no longer able to attend hospital appointments can still be monitored for any obvious changes in pressures, visual fields and eye health during a home eye test. We aren’t able to change your medication, but if we are concerned, we can contact your hospital consultant or GP who can arrange this.
Learn more about our full home eye test process here.
Are glaucoma patients eligible for a free home eye test?
Due to the consistent care and monitoring needed to manage glaucoma, many patients can benefit from a free NHS-funded home eye test. You may be eligible if you are unable to leave home unaccompanied due to physical or mental disability and:
- Have been diagnosed with glaucoma
- Considered to be at risk for glaucoma as advised by an optician
- Aged 40 or over with a close family history of glaucoma
For more information on whether you qualify for free home testing, check oureligibility criteria.
You can find out more about our home visit services on ourhome eye tests page.
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