How Glaucoma Is Diagnosed

An eye examination for glaucoma involves measuring the IOP, viewing the optic nerve, and testing the visual fields. Measurements of IOP alone are no longer used to diagnose glaucoma because some people with elevated IOP do not develop optic nerve damage, while other individuals develop glaucoma despite having a normal IOP reading. A high IOP raises the suspicion of glaucoma, but other tests are required to make the diagnosis.

In general, white people should be examined for glaucoma every two years after age 50, and black people every two years after age 40; optic nerve damage is uncommon before age 50 in whites, but it can occur up to 10 years earlier in blacks.

Some individuals may need to begin getting examinations at a younger age and have more frequent exams because of an increased risk of glaucoma and its resulting nerve damage.

Making the Diagnosis of Glaucoma

There are several tests used to diagnose glaucoma. If initial tests suggest that you have the condition, additional tests will be performed. The final diagnosis is made if your doctor finds evidence of optic nerve damage typical of glaucoma or identifies defects characteristic of glaucoma in your visual field.

Publication Review By: Susan B. Bressler, M.D., Harry A. Quigley, M.D., Oliver D. Schein, M.D., M.P.H.

Published: 01 Mar 2011

Last Modified: 07 Jan 2015