Important Questions to Ask Your Ophthalmologist About Glaucoma

Glaucoma is an eye condition which can cause painful pressure in the eyes as well as loss of vision. Whether you’ve already been diagnosed or you suspect you might have it, it’s important to talk to your ophthalmologist about your options.
But talking to your ophthalmologist can be a stressful experience if you aren’t prepared. It’s important to come to the appointment ready with questions and information so that you can get the most out of your visit.
Before you ask your questions, start by listing any symptoms you’ve been experiencing. Make sure to mention any medications or other health conditions you have. Bring a pen and notepad to take notes on your doctor’s advice and information, and you can even write down your questions in advance so you don’t leave out any important details.
Here are some of the most important questions you should ask your ophthalmologist about glaucoma:

What tests do I need to confirm a diagnosis?

There are a variety of tests available to determine your risk factors for glaucoma. A few of them will be discussed below. If you have not already gotten a confirmed diagnosis of glaucoma, your ophthalmologist will recommend different tests depending on the symptoms you report and how at risk you are for glaucoma.

Do I have elevated eye pressure?

Your ophthalmologist will likely do an eye pressure to test to determine if you have or are at risk for glaucoma. If your eye pressure is 22 or above, you are at risk, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you have or will get glaucoma. However, that you should take additional tests to see if you have other symptoms.

Have I already begun to lose vision?

One of the most serious symptoms of glaucoma is loss of vision—particularly peripheral vision. Your ophthalmologist will probably give you a visual field test to measure your peripheral vision. The test involves looking through an eyepiece at a black background and clicking a button each time you see a light, no matter how dim. If you’ve already begun to lose vision, this is a risk factor but does not necessarily mean you have glaucoma.

Are there signs of optic nerve damage?

If there is risk for glaucoma, your ophthalmologist will check your eye for optic nerve damage by using a lighted scope to look into your pupil. They may also do another test in which they create a digital image of your eye so that they can compare it at a later checkup and determine if there is any new damage.

How often should I come in for follow-ups?

If you have already been diagnosed with glaucoma or you have risk factors for it, your ophthalmologist is likely going to recommend you come in for checkups every 3 to 6 months. It’s important to monitor the progress of the disease so that you can manage the symptoms and minimize damage before it progresses to more advanced stages.

What treatment approach do you recommend?

There are a few different treatment options for glaucoma, including laser treatments and surgeries. If your only symptom is elevated eye pressure and you don’t yet have optic damage or loss of vision, your ophthalmologist will likely recommend that you avoid invasive procedures and just come in for regular follow ups to monitor your symptoms. Whether you need treatment or not, it is important to come in for follow ups if your ophthalmologist recommends them.

Would you recommend the iStent procedure?

The iStent procedure is a new treatment option for glaucoma. It’s intended for those suffering from mild to moderate glaucoma and cataracts. It involves inserting a microscopic device into the eye which helps unclog the fluids that are causing pressure to build up in your eye. By keeping your eye pressure in check, you can avoid vision loss and optic nerve damage. So make sure you ask your ophthalmologist if you would be a good candidate for the iStent device.

How can I manage my symptoms?

In addition to diagnostic tests and treatment options, you should discuss the steps you can take on your own. Your ophthalmologist can recommend certain practices to minimize damage, provide helpful suggestions for managing symptoms, and direct you to resources where you can learn more about the disease.
Emily Hunter has been writing about health-related topics for many years, and currently writes on behalf of the LASIK surgeons at Eyecare 20/20 in New Jersey. In her spare time, she cheers for Carolina Crown, formulates her own sodas, and crushes tower defense games. Follow her on Twitter at @Emily2Zen