The disease is usually related to unhealthy pressure inside the eye, but often, symptoms are so subtle people don't even know they have it until it begins to steal their sight. An at home test could keep things in focus -- for longer.
For 14 years, 42 year old computer programmer Toni Whitaker has been living with glaucoma.
"Before I was diagnosed it was like you don't even think about the idea of not having any vision," Toni Whitaker, diagnosed with glaucoma, told Ivanhoe.
Now that it's taken away some of her peripheral vision, she sees things a lot differently.
"You know I'm a programmer, I'm a geek at heart it's like I don't know what I would do if I couldn't you know, write code or sit in front of a computer," Whitaker added.
Three times a year it's the same drill… anesthetic eye drops, then a two second test to see if her eye pressure is changing… which could be a sign her glaucoma is progressing.
"Six seconds is worth of data is highly inadequate for managing a chronic disease that's round the clock," Sanjay Asrani, M.D., associate professor of ophthalmology at Duke University, said.
This test, in trials at Duke University allows patients like Whitaker to check their intraocular pressure at home several times a day -- the same way diabetics check their blood sugar. The goal is the same -- better management of the disease.
"If we can control the fluctuations and the patient is stable it is my experience that the patients do not progress," Dr. Asrani explained.
If Whitaker's glaucoma doesn't get worse, neither will her vision.
"Eyesight is an important part of what I do every day, I can't even imagine my life without being able to see," Whitaker concluded.
With help from new technology, she hopes she'll never have to.
The home glaucoma test is actually a new easy to use version of a test designed for clinical use. It's still experimental, but Duke eye center patients have already used the test successfully to check fluctuations in their glaucoma over extended periods of time.
Researchers hope the home test could one day be available to all patients with glaucoma, so their disease can be managed in much the same way high blood pressure and diabetes are monitored and managed long-term.
If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marsha Hitchcock at email@example.com