“Knowing the eye pressure has been helpful especially when my medication has been changed. If the readings are abnormal, I can contact my doctor. The doctor can see the results from her computer and tell me her professional view.”
What is glaucoma? It is estimated that 80 million people globally are living with glaucoma
Glaucoma is a chronic, progressive disease of the optic nerve which can eventually lead to severe visual impairment and even blindness.
Glaucoma is often completely asymptomatic in its initial stages — as glaucoma progresses, the individual may start to realize that it is getting difficult to see clearly in one or both eyes. Due to the initial lack of symptoms, it’s estimated that only 50% of glaucoma sufferers are aware that they have the disease.
Who is at risk of glaucoma?
The cause of glaucoma is still unknown, but several risk factors have been identified. Elevated intraocular pressure is one underlying risk factor for glaucoma that can be treated.
Understanding your intraocular pressure
Elevated eye pressure is the only modifiable risk factor for glaucoma. An intraocular pressure between 10 and 21 mmHg is considered normal. If the intraocular pressure is in the range of 22–29 mmHg, the risk of glaucoma is ten-fold, compared to the risk for eyes with pressure in the normal range. If the intraocular pressure rises into the range of 30–35 mmHg, the risk of glaucoma increases 40-fold.
Elevated intraocular pressure is likely to cause glaucoma in two ways. Firstly, by direct pressure exerted on the fibers of the optic nerve. Secondly, by adversely affecting the blood flow in the head of the optic nerve and its metabolism.
If you have had a high reading from an intraocular pressure measurement, it is advisable to consult an ophthalmologist.
In addition to elevated intraocular pressure, variation in intraocular pressure may also be associated with glaucoma. In healthy eyes, the variation in intraocular pressure is low, but in glaucoma, it may be significant. Peaks in intraocular pressure can occur at any time of the day or night.
Why are frequent IOP measurements crucial to glaucoma care?
Currently, lowering intraocular pressure is the only treatment for glaucoma. The primary objective of glaucoma therapy is to prevent glaucoma-induced visual impairment. Treatment of the disease is based on reducing IOP, regardless of the base level. The normal goal is to lower IOP by 20–30% or at least lower it to a level below 20 mmHg.
The most common treatment for glaucoma is the use of eye drop medication. The effectiveness of the medication is assessed by monitoring the reduction in eye pressure, imaging the optic nerve head and nerve fibers, as well as testing the visual field. If medication is not suitable or is ineffective, laser or surgical treatment may be considered.
Regular measurement of intraocular pressure is an important factor for the early detection of glaucoma. The prognosis for glaucoma is generally good if the disease is detected early and the patient adheres to treatment and follow-up. The greatest risk of visual impairment comes with delayed detection of glaucoma.