We are continuing our conversation with Dr. Young about Glaucoma. Dr. Young, if I feel that I see clearly and nothing is wrong or out of the ordinary, could I still be at risk for glaucoma?
Dr. Young: Since glaucoma has no signs or symptoms, it is very deceiving. Patients will not know that they have it, at least not until the very end stage of advanced glaucoma, when the patient is nearly blind. Glaucoma is a disease which must be checked for during an eye examination. Only there can it be detected. People make assumptions about their vision and take it for granted without realizing that there might be something wrong in the background.
Can any eye doctor diagnose glaucoma and treat it? Or does the doctor need to specialize in glaucoma?
Dr. Young: This is a pretty complicated answer since it really depends on where you live. Here, in the U.S, it is determined by each state. In the state of Texas, the answer is “Yes” - Optometrists are able to diagnose, manage and treat glaucoma, as long as they have been certified. It requires an additional distinction in addition to the Optometrist licensure - the optometrist must be specifically licensed for glaucoma treatment.
Do the insurance companies cover treatment of glaucoma?
Dr. Young: Yes, they do. If, after the regular eye exam and screening, a patient is diagnosed with risk factors or clues of possible glaucoma, then medical insurance (not vision insurance) will cover the additional testing required.
Are there any particular risk factors to be aware of for getting glaucoma?
Yes. They are what we call co-morbidities. This is when two diseases exist in a patient and seem to go hand in hand quite often. Such as glaucoma and sleep apnea, glaucoma and diabetes, and glaucoma and hypertension. Patients with a first-degree family member with glaucoma are at a higher risk. In addition, African Americans tend to get a more aggressive and fast-moving form of glaucoma and at a higher incidence.