Glaucoma App: How to spot the early signs

Many of those with glaucoma don't even realize they have it. If left untreated, it can cause irreversible vision loss and even blindness.

Glaucoma affects 3 million Americans, but half don’t realize they have it. If left untreated, glaucoma can cause irreversible vision loss and even blindness. Now a new app is giving doctors a way to help patients spot early signs.

This is not your standard eye test. Instead, researchers are testing an application that can illustrate what a glaucoma patient sees.

“If you see pictures on the internet, you would just see glaucoma being seen as visual fields effects, which are blacked out,” Dr. Meghal Gagrani, a glaucoma fellow at the University of Nebraska Medical Center told Ivanhoe.

But in patients that researchers tested, what they actually saw was quite different.

“All of our patients recorded what they see as blur in that visual field,” Gagrani said.

Typically, patients think of glaucoma as dramatic, where the peripheral vision is completely gone, but that’s not always the case.

“By the time a glaucoma patient sees a physician, almost 50 to 75 percent of them have moderate to severe visual field loss which they’re not aware of,” Gagrani said.

That’s because their central vision could still be 20/20. But with this app, patients can see what can be affected when their peripheral vision starts to become unclear.

“They would have problems seeing a dog crossing the road or a child crossing the road. So, it’s important to educate our patients to be able to recognize them,” Gagrani said.

So, patients like Marcia Jensen can do things now to keep her vision from getting worse.

“For my glaucoma, I take eye drops morning and evening,” Jensen said.

And takes special precautions to protect everyone around her.

“I don’t drive at night,” Jensen said.

Researchers believe they can use this app for any condition that affects peripheral vision. Doctors recommend getting an annual eye exam with an ophthalmologist if you are over the age of 40 and earlier if you have a family history of glaucoma.