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Huff and Puff

To some, going to the optometrist can be a daunting task.

You walk into the office and someone escorts you into a dark room filled with odd-looking devices. You’re then asked to go through a comprehensive eye exam.

The doctor will ask you to read a few lines of letters and numbers until they blur. (For information’s sake, this particular machine is known commonly as a phoropter or refractor) He or she will then flip through an assortment of lenses with different pictures. Which image looks better, A or B?

And then there’s the dreaded puff of air. You know the one. Everybody dreads it.

Why?

This test is a necessary way to find out if you have glaucoma.

The machine is called a non-contact tonometer and it helps the doctor to determine the fluid pressure inside of the eyeball, which can cause glaucoma.

There are a few tests that can determine this, but the most well-known method is the “air puff” test. The doctor utilizes an automated instrument to administer a small, but startling, burst of air to the surface of the eye. The machine measures the air that bounces back to calculate your IOP, which stands for intraocular pressure.

The test is safe, painless, and there is no risk of eye injury because it is nothing but the air that actually touches the eye.

Another method to measure intraocular pressure is with something known as an applanation tonometer. The doctor will dispense a yellow eye drop in the eyes, ask you to stare straight ahead into a slit lamp while he uses a glowing probe of the tonometer in front of each eye. This manually measures the IOP.

Both tests are very effective ways to calculate eye pressure,

This is to ensure the long-term health and care of your eyes.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is the result of high pressure inside the eye. It can cause vision loss due to the damage of the optic nerve, which transmits images to the brain.

Glaucoma tends to be inherited and may not show up until later in life. Over time, if not treated, the condition worsens and can eventually lead to permanent loss of vision within just a few years.

Treatment

The bad news is that vision loss from glaucoma is permanent.

The good news is that, if detected early, glaucoma can be treated and managed through laser surgery, eye drops, pills or a combination of these options. Talk with your eye doctor to determine which method is right for you.

Eye Health

Most people with glaucoma have no early symptoms from the IOP, which is why it is often referred to as the “sneak thief of vision.”

The first sign is usually the loss of peripheral or side vision, which can often go unnoticed until it’s too late. This makes it even more important to see your eye doctor on a regular basis, as it could be the determining factor in diagnosing and treating glaucoma before a long-term visual loss happens.

Family history of glaucoma and other health problems such as diabetes or other eye diseases raise the risk of having glaucoma, which means that you should have a complete eye exam at least every year.

So the next time your doctor asks you to rest your chin on the stand and look straight ahead for the “air puff” test, be sure to keep your eyes open – it could save your eyesight.

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