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Physical Exam for Glaucoma

Topic Overview

Glaucoma is not diagnosed using a physical exam alone. A medical history and other tests are also needed to diagnose the condition. During the physical exam for glaucoma, the eye doctor will:

  • Measure the eye pressure (intraocular pressure). Often pressure in the eye is high when glaucoma is present. But a person can still have glaucoma when the pressure in the eye is within the normal range (10 millimeters of mercury [mm Hg] to 21 mm Hg).
  • Examine the structures in your eye. The doctor will look at the optic nerve in the back of the eye to check for signs of damage that could be caused by glaucoma. He or she will also check the drainage angle in the front of the eye.
  • Take photos of the optic nerve and/or do imaging tests such as optic coherence tomography. This can help your doctor detect signs of damage to the optic nerve.
  • Perform visual field tests which can detect loss of side (peripheral) vision and central vision. Loss of vision may indicate damage to the optic nerve caused by glaucoma.
  • Test how quickly the dark spot in the center of your eye (pupil) closes (constricts) when bright light is shined on it. If the pupil does not react to light, closed-angle glaucoma may be suspected.
  • Look at your eyes for signs of redness or excessive tearing. Redness and excessive tearing could indicate closed-angle glaucoma. But glaucoma most often has no symptoms.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Christopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
Last Revised February 28, 2012

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