Definition & Overview
Glaucoma follow-up consultations are normally scheduled for two reasons: the ophthalmologist suspects that you may have any of the forms of glaucoma and wants to monitor your condition, or the ophthalmologist has confirmed your condition and you’re scheduled to undergo treatment.
For suspected glaucoma cases, follow-up consultations are usually spaced between 4-6 months apart for a 2-year period. The goal is to monitor the progression of your condition so timely treatment can be provided. If left untreated, glaucoma will likely result in blindness of one or both of your eyes.
Glaucoma refers to diseases that affect the optic nerves, which are one of the four basic elements of vision. The others are the cornea, lens, and retina. When light passes through the cornea and is focused by the lens, it’s transmitted to the retina where it is converted into neural signals. These signals are then transmitted to the brain via the optic nerves.
The optic nerves are consist of millions of delicate fibers. If fluid builds up inside the eye due to glaucoma, it can result in excessive amount of pressure that can damage these. When this happens, a person’s eyesight begins to fail slowly, starting with the loss of peripheral vision. As the condition progresses, central vision begin to fade until the person loses vision altogether.
Thus, it is imperative that an ophthalmologist is able to monitor a patient’s condition, even if the patient is only suspected of having glaucoma. Much more so if glaucoma has already been confirmed.
Who Should Undergo & Expected Results
Everyone should undergo periodic eye examinations to minimize the risk of a disease not being detected and progressing into its late stages. Those who have been diagnosed with glaucoma should undergo regular follow-up consultations, especially if they’re already being treated.
Those who are at risk of developing glaucoma should undergo a follow-up consultation every 4-6 months to see if the disease develops so that it can be treated immediately.
A follow-up consultation should take less than 20 minutes, which is the average time it takes to complete an initial consultation. However, if the ophthalmologist discovers that the disease has continued to progress, additional tests will be performed, which could extend the length of the consultation.
If the condition did not progress or is responding to treatment as well as can be expected, then the ophthalmologist will simply need to schedule another follow-up consultation.
How Does the Procedure Work?
A glaucoma follow-up usually begins with a short interview. The ophthalmologist will inquire if the patient has been experiencing any vision problems. The ophthalmologist may then decide to perform tests similar to those performed during the initial consultation. These could include a visual acuity test, visual field test, dilated eye exam, tonometry, and pachymetry.
If the ophthalmologist discovers any developments, positive or negative, those will be noted and explained to the patient.
Possible Risks and Complications
During the initial consultation, the ophthalmologist would have likely explained the fact that glaucoma does not have a cure. The objective of the treatment is to slow down the progression of the disease through medications and/or surgery.
Glaucoma follow-up consultations are performed to monitor the patient’s condition. Patients are rarely aware of their actual condition because glaucoma does not present any symptoms other than gradual vision loss.
The risk in a glaucoma follow-up is not in the consultation itself, but the will of the patient to undergo consultation. Some forego this consultation due to the absence of symptoms.
In a follow-up consultation, the ophthalmologist will decide if there’s a need to adjust the treatment method to slow down the progression of the disease. If the patient does not go to a follow-up consultation, then there’s a high risk of the disease progressing faster instead of slowing down.
At the moment, researchers are still looking for better ways to treat glaucoma and prevent vision loss. However, until such time a cure is discovered for the disease, patients will need to rely on the skills of the ophthalmologist and report regularly for follow-up consultation when required to properly monitor the condition.
- National Eye Institute. Glaucoma Research Foundation.