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Q&A: Delayed Diagnoses

I was just diagnosed with advanced glaucoma even though I’ve been seeing an optometrist regularly for 20 years. My regular optometrist told me he would monitor me because I have a family history of glaucoma, but then he never did any tests or dilated my eyes. Now the glaucoma is too advanced for me to have laser surgery. Do I have a medical malpractice case?

A: Delayed glaucoma diagnoses are difficult medical malpractice cases. Doctors experience difficulty determining exactly how advanced glaucoma is and how rapidly it is progressing without proper testing over several years.

Without being able to determine exactly how far along your condition is, any attorney would be hard pressed to prove what injury was caused by the delayed diagnosis. In your case, your condition is so advanced as to preclude laser surgery. Since you did not mention that your condition is too advanced for the classic scalpel surgery, I cannot advise as to that consideration.

Doctors do not need to dilate your pupil to examine the optic nerve, but you state that no tests at all were done. I cannot offer legal advice without a thorough evaluation of all the evidence of your case, but your description sounds like serious negligence by your optometrist.

Optometrists commit negligence in diagnosing glaucoma if they fail to measure intraocular pressure, measure your visual fields, and assess your nerve fiber layers. In your case, you report a failure do perform all three tests.

The question then becomes: “What injury, damage or harm did your optometrist’s medical malpractice cause?”


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