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Optometry’s role in detecting normal tension glaucoma

Posted Aug 2 2016  |  by DOC

Summer is here and whether you’re cottaging in Muskoka, watching the sunset from the Prairies or enjoying Vancouver’s majestic mountains, your mind is likely not on eye disease.

But even during the heady days of summer, it’s important to keep your eye health in mind. Regular, comprehensive eye exams are an essential part of ensuring healthy vision and protecting against hard-to-detect eye diseases, such as normal tension glaucoma (NTG).

Glaucoma is a term we hear often – a chronic progressive eye disease that is characterized by the degeneration of the optic nerve, which may lead to vision loss if not detected and treated early. Glaucoma is often associated with a buildup of pressure inside the eye and can be detected through tonometry, frequently administered as a “puff-of-air” test as part of a comprehensive eye exam. Although high eye pressure can lead to glaucoma, as many as 40 per cent of all glaucoma cases occur in people with “normal” eye pressure, which is known as normal tension glaucoma.

Like other forms of glaucoma, NTG causes damage to the optic nerve, but without eye pressures exceeding normal levels. Diagnosis of NTG involves monitoring a patient with standardized eye equipment over a number of years, being careful to observe for changes in the optic nerve or visual field over time. A doctor of optometry will monitor and perform required tests and when warranted make a necessary referral to the appropriate specialist. Many optometry clinics are equipped with advanced medical imaging such as OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography, which provides high-resolution, cross-sectional imaging of ocular tissues, especially the optic nerve), and full threshold visual fields. Other offices will refer for further testing, knowing it is readily available in a colleague’s office.

Glaucoma prevalence may be inherited, especially over age 40 and may at times be hereditary in nature. While treatment depends on the severity and progress of the disease, the best defense is to ensure you’re receiving regular comprehensive eye exams. Glaucoma may be managed with daily eye drops, laser surgery, or more in more serious cases surgery, to bypass the eye’s natural drainage system.

Concerns regarding glaucoma should be addressed during your regular comprehensive eye exam with your local doctor of optometry. If you have immediate questions about glaucoma or NTG, contact your optometrist for more information, or read more on the topic in the Eye Health Library.

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