The Part of the Eye Exam Everyone Hates: Is the “Air Puff” Test Necessary?

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Dr. Kaufman

So…it’s that time of the year to visit your eye doctor.  Maybe you are feeling a little nervous.   You check your vision with your PVT from EyeQue regularly, but you know you should still see your eye doctor for your annual health check. So why are you still apprehensive?  Maybe it’s that darn air puff test.  You think your eye doctor may just like torturing you by blowing air into your eyes.


Well, although it seems like torture, it is actually a very important test of your eye health. The air puff test is called the Non-Contact Tonometer and can only be done at your eye doctor’s office.  The tonometer is critical because it measures the pressure inside of your eye. If you think of your eye as a balloon filled with fluid, where that fluid is continuously pumped to keep the eye inflated, the pressure is a measure of how hard that fluid is being pumped through the eye.  If the pressure in the eye gets too high, damage can be caused to the optic nerve inside your eye.  Your optic nerve is connected to the part of your brain that interprets what you see.  Optic nerve damage as a result of this high pressure is called Glaucoma.


Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness around the world.  This blindness does not just suddenly happen, either– it’s a very slow and progressive eye disease.  Without the tonometer test, Glaucoma is very difficult to detect; in fact, most people with glaucoma do not have any symptoms.  There is usually no pain, no loss of vision, no flashing lights, nothing that would even indicate what was happening. Out of the ten major types of glaucoma, 90% of cases do not show symptoms at all.

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What can you do?  First, understand that it is imperative for you to not skip your annual eye exams and the glaucoma test.  Monitor your vision with your PVT and if you see changes, report them to your eye doctor.  What the research does tell us about glaucoma is that if you are over 40, have diabetes, have had an eye injury or have thin corneas, you are at a higher risk for developing glaucoma.

If you are still nervous about the “air puff” test, remember it’s one of the most important tests that your eye doctor will perform during your eye exam.  Take a few deep breaths and the test will be over in no time.


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