Glaucoma versus red disease: imaging and glaucoma diagnosis

Curr Opin Ophthalmol. 2012 Mar;23(2):79-88. doi: 10.1097/ICU.0b013e32834ff431.


Purpose of review: The use of ophthalmic imaging for documentation and diagnosis of ocular disease is rising dramatically. Optical coherence tomography (OCT), confocal scanning laser tomography (CSLT), scanning laser polarimetry (SLP) and photographic imaging of the optic nerve head (ONH) are currently used to document baseline characteristics of the ONH and for diagnosing glaucoma and glaucoma progression secondary to loss of retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL). Imaging modalities typically provide information on ONH and RNFL characteristics which are outside of the normal (relative to normative databases) in red lettering or boxes, whereas ONH and RNFL characteristics within the normal range are presented in green.

Recent findings: As imaging modalities have become more sophisticated and are validated in research studies, clinicians have come to rely upon data from these imaging devices to aid in differentiating between normal and glaucomatous states of the ONH and RNFL - typically by examining if the data are green or red suggesting normal or abnormal. However, normative databases can sometimes be flawed relative to atypical ONH or RNFL morphologies and imaging can provide artifacts which do not represent true ocular disease but secondary to limitations of imaging technology.

Summary: Ophthalmic imaging is an important adjunct to clinical diagnosis but the results from imaging devices need to be assessed critically relative to artifacts of imaging and the limitations of the technology and its normative databases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Diagnostic Techniques, Ophthalmological*
  • Glaucoma / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Fibers / pathology
  • Optic Disk / pathology
  • Optic Nerve Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Photography
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / pathology
  • Retinal Hemorrhage / diagnosis*
  • Scanning Laser Polarimetry
  • Tomography
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence / methods