If you’ve ever been to the optometrist, you’ve likely undergone the dreadfully cringe-worthy “air puff test.” During this test, which is meant to detect glaucoma, your doctor gets up close and personal with a machine that blows an intense blast of air straight into your eye. Once you’ve made it through, you feel like you’ve won Survivor. Or maybe that’s just me.
What is the air puff test?
According to VeryWell Health, the air puff test is a slang term for non-contact tonometry (NCT). NCT measures the pressure in your eye, which ultimately gives your doctor a reading of your intraocular pressure (aka fluid pressure), which is a good way to detect glaucoma.
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness for people over 60, which is what makes the air puff test so important. If glaucoma is caught early, it can be treated before vision loss occurs — but is the air puff test really the only method of detecting it?
Fortunately NCT isn’t the only way to measure eye pressure, so it’s really all a matter of what technology your eye doctor opts to use. As an alternative, there’s a nifty device called the Icare Tonometer that measures the intraocular pressure sans air puff or eye drops. The best part? You can blink the entire time.
According to the manufacturer’s site, the Icare Tonometer doesn’t require any specialized skills to operate and can be used in patients of all ages. Of course, it still gets close to your eye, which might trigger some nerves for certain people. But the device isn’t anything like an abrasive air puff — it simply uses a light-weight probe that makes momentary contact with the cornea in order to measure your eye pressure.
The Journal of Glaucoma reviewed the Icare Tonometer. “The Icare Instrument was easy to use and was able to obtain rapid and consistent readings with minimal training,” they wrote. “It was tolerated well by patients with no use of topical anesthetic.”
Plus, if your ophthalmologist hasn’t caught on yet, Icare has even created an at-home tonometer for 24-hour monitoring outside normal clinic hours. Once data is collected, the user can send it over to their doctor and obtain results. If that’s not the wave of the future, I don’t know what is.