The most common method used for diagnosing eye diseases is a comprehensive eye exam. During a comprehensive eye exam, a personal and family medical history will be taken and reviewed, and the patient will also be asked to provide information about symptoms that could help provide an accurate diagnosis. The eye will be carefully evaluated for signs of disease, including visual manifestations or symptoms, as well as structural clues or indicators. Special eye drops will be used to dilate the pupils so the interior structures of the eyes can be evaluated, including the retina and the optic nerve head. Other tests may be performed to assess specific diseases.
Glaucoma is one of the most common eye diseases, and it usually causes no symptoms until vision loss occurs, which makes early diagnosis problematic but critical. The two most common tests for glaucoma are the “air puff” test that uses a strong puff of air to measure the pressure inside the eye (the intraocular pressure or IOP) and a test that uses a device that is gently placed on the surface of the eye to measure IOP. Also, signs of glaucoma can often be seen during the dilated portion of the exam. This is especially important for diagnosing normal-tension glaucoma, which can occur even when the IOP is within a normal range.
Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is diagnosed with a dilated eye exam that enables the doctor to look at the retina and examine the central portion of the retina (called the macula) for changes, including tiny spots or holes that cause problems with seeing straight ahead. Another common symptom of retinal problems including macular degeneration is a sudden abundance of floaters, the tiny, squiggly shapes, and lines that float in front of the field of vision and which are especially visible in bright lights. Patients who experience an unusually large number of floaters should call the office immediately for evaluation.
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