Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people may not be able to go to a doctor’s office for a glaucoma test. (Learn More) Innovations in telemedicine have made it possible to conduct rudimentary glaucoma tests at home, with a computer or a smartphone and a special viewing unit. (Learn More)

While convenient, these at-home tests are not replacements for an in-person glaucoma test. An ophthalmologist can conduct as many as five different examinations to test for the likelihood and presence of glaucoma, even before symptoms start to appear. (Learn More)

Glaucoma is the condition of the internal pressure of the eye gradually building up to dangerous levels, such that it can cause permanent damage to the optic nerve and result in vision loss or even blindness.

Home-Based Glaucoma Testing

Glaucoma develops very slowly, so many people will not be aware they have the disease until they start to notice a loss of vision or some degree of pain and discomfort in their eye. For this reason, doctors usually recommend regular, comprehensive testing among people who have risk factors for glaucoma (high blood pressure, diabetes, and/or a family history of glaucoma) and for people who are over the age of 40.

However, going to a doctor’s office for a checkup might not always be possible, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, there are certain ways to test for glaucoma at home.

The Food & Drug Administration warns that there is no test that can replace the hands-on examination of an ophthalmologist, but some companies are offering apps and other telemedicine services to help patients who can’t see a doctor in person.

Computer- & App-Based Testing

One such examination is offered by the Perisiat Group, which features home computer-based testing. All you need is an internet connection and a webcam.

The KeepYourSight.org website will guide you on the steps to do a couple of simple exercises (for example, clicking as soon as you see a spot on the test screen), so you can submit your tests to a licensed ophthalmologist. There is a fee you have to pay to obtain your results, which are usually emailed back to you within 24 hours of completing the test.

Many other telemedicine providers have also created apps and other services to allow patients to monitor their eyes for any signs of glaucoma. A downloadable app can help you conduct a glaucoma test just by using a smartphone and a special headset.

Caveats of DIY Testing

However, without the attention of an ophthalmologist, these tests may not always be accurate. Even the best online glaucoma test will only be a subjective measure of any loss of central and peripheral vision. They should not be thought of as a replacement for a comprehensive eye exam.

That being said, regular online tests can alert you, and the doctor who reviews the tests, if there is the possibility of the development of glaucoma. If there is, you likely have to see a doctor in person to get an actual diagnosis.

In-Person Testing

Notwithstanding social distancing and other reasons for not visiting a doctor, the Glaucoma Research Foundation writes that the best way to find out if you have glaucoma, or are likely to develop glaucoma, is to see an ophthalmologist.

When you visit an ophthalmologist, they will likely conduct five tests to determine the presence or chances of glaucoma.

  • Tonometry to test inner eye pressure
  • A dilated eye exam (ophthalmoscopy) to test the shape and color of the optic nerve
  • A visual field test (perimetry) to test the total field of vision
  • Gonioscopy to determine the angle inside the eye where the iris intersects with the cornea
  • Pachymetry to test how thick the cornea is

Standard visits to an ophthalmologist for glaucoma testing will usually feature ophthalmoscopy and tonometry tests. The ophthalmologist might conduct some combination of the other tests if they are concerned that there is a chance you have glaucoma.

References

Weighing Risks and Benefits for Glaucoma Patients During COVID-19. (October 2020). University of Michigan.

Online Glaucoma Test Offered Free for a Week. (February 2006). Healio.

Perimetry Comes Online. (July/August 2017). Glaucoma Today.

Smartphone App Can Screen for Glaucoma. (September 2016). HealthTech Insider.

Five Common Glaucoma Tests. (January 2020). Glaucoma Research Foundation.