Can you avoid blindness by checking for glaucoma at home?

The answer to this question is “absolutely, categorically and 100 % NO!” By 2040, we estimate that 118 million people globally will have glaucoma.

An RNIB blindness report looking at data for the year 2016-2017 estimated that there were:

  • 89,878 new cases of  permanent sight loss or blindness in the UK
  • 246 cases per day (or one person every 6 minutes)
  • 90% of these new cases of blindness were in the over 65s
  • 10% were in younger people

Wet macular degeneration glaucoma and diabetic eye disease account for a significant proportion of people registered as “sight impaired”. Cataracts can be operated on, and we can restore your vision. However, with glaucoma, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have regular checks with your optician or glaucoma specialist so that they can pick up the disease as early as possible. Early diagnosis means early treatment.

Many of the patients who were registered blind in 2016-2017 potentially could have avoided this devastating vision loss if their glaucoma was picked up earlier.

If an eye professional can detect glaucoma early

  • More than 80% of patients with well-treated glaucoma will maintain good vision throughout their lifetime
  • 10-15% need surgery and do well  
  • We have to work hard on 5% to control the disease

There is no test that you can do at home to diagnose or monitor your glaucoma

We are seeing traditional clinic-based tests being transformed into home monitoring technology, e.g. blood sugar testing for diabetics and home blood pressure monitoring. However, this is not the case in eye disease, and I am not sure this sort of technology will exist in the next 20 years for glaucoma patients.

There are some home pressure-measuring kits. However, they are not as accurate as the gold standard applanation tonometry we use in the glaucoma clinic. Not all high pressure is glaucoma, and you can still have glaucoma even with normal pressure. That is why having even the most reliable at-home glaucoma test cannot replace the ophthalmic exam for diagnosis or progression of the condition.

If you already have glaucoma, you must see your glaucoma specialist at regular intervals depending on the severity of your condition. Having a diabetic eye screening check or work medical is not a replacement for a thorough glaucoma assessment.

A thorough glaucoma assessment includes gold standard pressure testing, OCT scanning and periodic visual field testing. There is no substitute for this. If you have a family history of glaucoma or are over the age of 60, you MUST have an eye check once a year. 

Many of the patients who were registered blind in 2016-2017 potentially could have avoided this devastating vision loss if an eye healthcare professional picked up their glaucoma earlier.

Find out more about the incidence and risk of sight loss and blindness in the UK here: RNIB blindness report