How Much Does it Cost to Screen for Glaucoma Without Insurance?
Glaucoma is an eye condition that causes damage to your optic nerve, which sends visual information to and from your eye and brain. Your optic nerve is crucial for good vision; therefore, you should take glaucoma seriously. Your optometrist will perform multiple tests to assess your eyes for signs of glaucoma; however, without insurance, glaucoma tests can cost between $50 - $200.
Cost of Glaucoma Testing
Your ophthalmologist may perform one or a combination of tests to adequately detect and assess the severity of glaucoma and nerve damage. The most common glaucoma tests are listed below, with the testing process and what it tells the ophthalmologist.
Types of Glaucoma Testing
|Type of Test||What it Shows||The Process|
|Angle Exam||Shows the angle where the cornea meets the iris; the angle is your eye’s drainage system.||Eye drops are used to numb your eye, and your cornea is touched with a special lens that assesses whether or not the angle is blocked.|
|Corneal Thickness Measurement||Measures the thickness of your cornea, which determines the risk for glaucoma.||The ophthalmologist numbs your eye and then touches it with a small probe.|
|Dilated Eye Exam||Allows ophthalmologists to see your retina and optic nerve to determine if there is damage caused by glaucoma.||Eye drops dilate your pupil, and then a bright light is shined into your pupil to see the back of the eye.|
|Eye Pressure Check||Examining your eye for increased pressure is a sign of glaucoma.||An ophthalmologist numbs the eye with eye drops and then touches the surface of your eye with a tool that takes the pressure.|
|Optic Nerve Imaging||Take pictures of your retina and optic nerve. Images show every layer of eye tissue and map the area.||A special machine called optical coherence tomography is used to take pictures of your eye.|
|Visual Field Test||Examines whether or not you have lost sight in one or both eyes; this test can also investigate how quickly glaucoma is progressing.||Ophthalmologists will have you sit or stand and cover one eye at a time. With one eye cover, they will ask if you can see an item along the side of your vision.|
While you can make an appointment to visit an ophthalmologist to discuss family history and glaucoma concerns specifically, all six glaucoma tests can be performed at your routine eye examination.
If you have no vision problems and do not wear glasses or contact lenses, you should get your eyes examined at least once every two years. However, If you have vision problems, once every year is highly recommended. Without insurance coverage, your traditional eye exam can range between $50 and $250, depending on location and if it's your first visit.
Treatment Options For Glaucoma
It's important to note that you can't reverse damage caused by glaucoma. Timely treatment and regular check-ups can slow the progression and prevent additional vision loss. The main goal of all treatment options is to lower the pressure of your eye; popular treatment options include eye drops, oral medications, laser treatment, and surgery.
Most glaucoma treatment plans start with prescription eye drops that work to decrease eye pressure and improve fluid drainage in your eye. Some Eye drops could also work to reduce the amount of fluid your eye produces. Common Eye Drop medications include:
- Rho Kinase Inhibitors
- Miotic or Cholinergic Agent
Your doctor may recommend you combine oral medications with eye drops to reduce the pressure in your eye. The most common prescription is a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor that reduces excess fluid in the eye. Common carbonic anhydrase inhibitor:
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Laser treatment is a good alternative if you cannot tolerate or keep up with the eye drop regimen. Your doctor may recommend laser treatment if other treatments are not showing improvement or maintenance. Laser treatment can be done in your doctor's office, in which a small laser is used to alter the tissue where the angle and cornea meet. This treatment improves your eye's drainage. Still, it may take a few weeks to see results.
The most common surgery for glaucoma is minimally invasive glaucoma surgery or MIGS. This procedure lowers the pressure in your eye and requires less postoperative care. This surgery is often combined with cataract surgery and only takes a few hours to complete. Your doctor might recommend surgery if eye drop and medication therapies are proving not to be effective.
While there are multiple options for glaucoma treatment, the cost will vary depending on which treatment or combination of treatments your doctor suggests. Nevertheless, prescription eye drops are the least invasive and have a lower out-of-pocket cost, while MIGs are the most expensive. The chart below highlights the average cost for each treatment option.
Cost of Glaucoma Treatments
|Treatment Type||Cost Without Insurance|
|Eye Drops (year of prescriptions)||$150 - $1,080|
|Oral medications (per prescription)||$16 - $113|
|Laser Treatment||$1,000 - $2,000 per eye|
|Glaucoma Surgery||$7,300 - $11,300|
Alternatives to Glaucoma Testing and Treatments
In addition to in-office glaucoma testing, there are now options to check your eye pressure at home. An at-home tonometer might be an excellent investment for someone diagnosed with glaucoma and has to measure their eye pressure regularly.
Although convenient at-home tonometers are expensive, they can range from $1,900 to $2,350. In addition to the machine, at-home users will have to replenish the stock of the sterilized probes required for testing. One 100-pack of sterilized probes cost $85; it's important to note that the probes do not expire for three years after the date of purchase.
There are no alternative, at-home, or over-the-counter remedies for glaucoma. However, there are steps you can take to successfully manage the condition:
- Eating a Health Diet
- Safely Exercising
- Limiting Caffeine Intact
- Be aware of your fluid intake
- Take prescribed medications
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Glaucoma and Treatment
Below are frequently asked questions, regarding risk factors, glaucoma progression, and treatment timeline.
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How Do I Know If I am At Risk For Gluacoma?
In short, anyone can get glaucoma, but some people are at higher risk due to underlying factors and characteristics. Individuals who have a higher risk of developing glaucoma are:
- African American
- Hispanic, especially older populations
- Indivudals Over 60
- Family History of Glaucoma
- Have Hypertension
- Hisotry of Steriod of Drug Use
How Quickly Does Glaucoma Progress?
Glaucoma is a slow-progressing disease that typically takes years to cause blindness. On average, if left untreated, glaucoma takes about 10-15 years to advance from early stages to total blindness. With the proper treatment and eye pressure monitoring by your ophthalmologist, glaucoma progression can be stopped, and your vision will be maintained.
How Long Does Gluacoma Treatment Last?
As previously mentioned, there is no cure for glaucoma, just treatment options preventing the progression and easing any associated side effects. If your doctor prescribes your glaucoma eye drops and the treatment plan is effective, you will most likely continue to use the drops daily. Regarding laser treatments, the results tend to last between 1 and 5 years and require yearly observation to determine when your next round of treatment is needed.
Glaucoma is not life-threatening, but it can severely impact your long-term vision. Fortunately, there are several effective tests your optometrist or ophthalmologist can perform during your routine eye exam to detect signs of glaucoma. While it’s better to detect glaucoma or your risk for glaucoma to develop early, treatment options can help you manage high eye pressure or reduce eye fluid drainage. Talk to your doctor to decide which treatment option is right for you – and if you don’t have insurance– which option makes the most sense for your budget.
Originally from Houston, Texas, Alexandra is currently getting her Master's in Public Health with a health policy certificate at Columbia University. One of her life goals is to own her own art gallery!