New Technologies Help Screen for Glaucoma - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

New Technologies Help Screen for Glaucoma

By: Jason Rantala


Of the three million people in the US who suffer from glaucoma, half don't even know they have it.

It was about 10 years ago that Sharon Walters discovered she had glaucoma.

"I had no symptoms whatsoever," said Walters.

That's how it starts for most patients, and is also why it can be hard to detect, and often isn't detected until it's too late.

"With glaucoma we termed the silent thief of vision," said Optometrist Dr. Wendy Muller.

Dr. Muller screens for glaucoma during regular vision checks.

It's diagnosed by looking for elevated pressure inside the eye. A ruptured optic nerve is an even better indicator.

If glaucoma is suspected, patients undergo vision tests like a visual field analysis.

Gone untreated, glaucoma can cause loss of peripheral vision, followed by blindness.

New technology, like OCT, or Optical Coherence Tomography, has made diagnosing even easier.

The OCT takes a picture with light and gives the thickness of the nerve fiber layer around the optic nerve.

"What's nice is newer technology such as the exam Sharon did tells us the thickness of the nerve fiber layer right away, how it is compared to other people her age," said Dr. Muller.

The machines look through 10 layers of the retina and can also find conditions like retinal detachments and macular degeneration.

"So it's a huge tool in diagnosing what's going on with patients that aren't seeing well," said Dr. Muller.

Once diagnosed, glaucoma is most commonly treated with eye drops, which help reduce pressure.

"What's most important about this is that everyone has a routine eye exam at least every two years," said Dr. Muller. 

While glaucoma is more common over the age of 60, Dr. Muller says patients are diagnosed as early as their 30s. Even children have been diagnosed.

Dr. muller says people should get eye checkups at least every 2 years.

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