What is glaucoma?Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases causing optic nerve damage, which can result in vision loss and even blindness. Glaucoma comes in second only to cataracts as the leading cause of blindness in the world, and it’s estimated that 4.2 million people will have glaucoma by 2030. The exact cause of glaucoma has not been determined, but the top risk factor is an increase in eye pressure. For those with high pressure, the aqueous humor (the clear fluid inside the eye designed to provide nourishment) fails to drain. The resultant pressure causes peripheral blurring or blind spots, which will only get worse with time. Treatment will not restore lost vision, but it can lessen the severity of vision loss. The good news is that 9 out of 10 of those yearly eye injuries are completely preventable by wearing the right protective eyewear. No matter what sport or physical activities your young ones are getting into this year, make sure they’re using the appropriate type of eye protection for safe fun.
Glaucoma has two main types
Open-angle glaucomaAbout 9 out of 10 Americans suffering from glaucoma have open-angle glaucoma. Starting with side vision loss in both eyes, the pressure buildup in the eye causes no pain. And with few to no symptoms, detection is nearly impossible unless tested by your ophthalmologist. Left untreated, advanced open-angle glaucoma results in severe tunnel vision and eventually irreversible blindness.
Acute angle-closure glaucomaAlso called chronic angle-closure, it is less common than open-angle. The space between the cornea and iris narrows, blocking drainage and causing a rapid increase in eye pressure. Symptoms include sudden blurriness, extreme pain in the eyes, nausea and headaches. If not immediately treated, the likelihood of blindness is very high.
Who is at risk?No matter how old you are, there is some risk for developing glaucoma. Even though people over 60 are more likely to develop glaucoma — it’s one of the leading causes of blindness for them — it isn’t just an elderly disease. In fact, .01% of American newborns, or 1 in 10,000, are born with glaucoma. African Americans above age 40 in particular are at risk, as are people who are nearsighted, those with diabetes or those with a family history of the disease.
Is there a cure for glaucoma?Currently there is no known cure for glaucoma. The good news? The earlier the detection, the more likely the possibility of slowing vision loss, and certain medical and surgical interventions may help lessen its impact on your quality of eyesight.
How glaucoma is diagnosed
Comprehensive eye examsDiagnosis is the best way to reduce the extent of damage that glaucoma will cause. When your eye doctor performs a routine eye examination, he or she will use a tonometer, a device that measures eye pressure. Other instruments, like the ophthalmoscope, will help detect any optic nerve damage. The visual field test, to determine how far you can see clearly, will indicate if you’re experiencing any peripheral or central vision loss. Your doctor will be able to review your medical history with you to see if you have any other risk factors. The glaucoma test is pain-free, quick and easy — a worthwhile part of your comprehensive eye exam to help you preserve your vision.
How to treat glaucomaYou cannot reverse damage caused by glaucoma, but you can slow or prevent vision loss through treatment and regular checkups, especially if you catch the disease in its early stages. The goal of glaucoma treatment is to lower eye pressure, also called intraocular pressure. Treatment to lower intraocular pressure might include any combination of:
Prescription eye dropsEye drops, which can help eye fluid drain properly, are usually the first part of glaucoma treatment. Since your bloodstream absorbs some of the eye drop medicine, you may experience side effects unrelated to your eyes. Keep your eyes closed for 1–2 minutes after putting in your drops. If you also use artificial tears, make sure to wait a few minutes in between taking them and prescription eye drops.
SurgeryThere are a few surgical procedures your doctor can use to treat glaucoma, including filtering surgery (to take out the blocked part of the white of your eye), drainage tubes (draining your eye using a shunt) and other minimally invasive procedures.
Oral medicationsBeyond eye drops, doctors often prescribe oral medication. Some potential side effects include upset stomach, kidney stones and tingling in toes and fingers. Call your doctor immediately if you are concerned with any experienced side effects as you take medication.
Laser treatmentLaser trabeculoplasty treatment unclogs channels in your eye using a laser beam, something your doctor can do right in office. Typically for open-angle glaucoma, this treatment may take several weeks before you notice any effects.
Can you prevent glaucoma?
There is no surefire way to completely prevent glaucoma. However, regular eye exams are the best way to prevent significant glaucoma damage. According to Glaucoma.org, checking for glaucoma is crucial:
- before age 40, every 2 to 4 years.
- from age 40 to age 54, every 1 to 3 years.
- from age 55 to 64, every 1 to 2 years.
- after age 65, every 6 to 12 months.
Early detection and lifelong treatment are crucial to slow vision loss due to glaucoma, but there also are a few other ways to maintain your health and limiting the damage from this eye disease that accounts for over 10 million annual visits to the doctor.
- Eat healthy
- Exercise regularly
- Stay hydrated
- Avoid caffeine when possible
- Elevate your head during sleep
- Relax and meditate
- Rear protective eyewear
Following a diet of foods rich in nutrients like zinc, copper and antioxidant vitamins A, C and E can help keep your eyes in better shape.
Safe exercise on the regular is thought to help lower eye pressure in cases of open-angle glaucoma. Learn more about the best kind of physical exercise for eye health from your eye doctor.
Adequate water intake is crucial for overall health, but it’s important you don’t drink too much in a short period of time. Drinking large amounts of fluids quickly might increase eye pressure, so learning to sip rather than gulp is the best way to ensure safe, consistent hydration.
A lot of us love our coffee and tea, but caffeinated beverages might raise eye pressure, so limit how your caffeine intake when you can!
Eye pressure can be reduced during sleep simply by using the right pillow. Try to sleep with your head raised around 20 degrees.
They aren’t substitutes for proper eye care, but certain techniques like meditating to lower stress may help lower stress — and, in turn, decrease angle-closure glaucoma risk. Ask your doctor for tips to avoid stress in your daily life.
Light sensitivity is a common side effect for those suffering from glaucoma. Protective eyewear in sports or home improvement projects, including tinted glasses, treated goggles and sunglasses, can reduce the damage things like UV rays do.
Official school sports aren’t the only time your kids’ eyes are at risk. Your children run the risk of eye injury during all kinds of physical activities both indoors and outdoors, too. Injuries during things like yard work, repairs, cleaning and cooking account for 40% of home-related eye injuries and, according to the U.S. Eye Injury Registry, fishing is the number-one cause of eye injuries related to sports. Needless to say, eye safety is always important during physical activities, even if it’s not an official school sport.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are common-sense guidelines you can encourage your kids to follow:
- Regular eyeglasses cannot adequately protect your eyes.
- Games or activities with sharp objects or projectiles require extra caution.
- Be careful during activities (usually outdoors) that might involve flying debris.
Check out ourOptical Shop to find the protective eyewear that works for you.
Discuss your options for glaucoma treatment with your doctor
Once you you schedule an appointment with one of our doctors, consider pulling together some information that will help us give you proper diagnosis and treatment options.
- What symptoms have you been experiencing? How long have you been experiencing them?
- Are you taking any medications or supplements? In what dosages?
- Have you experienced any eye pain or trouble in the past? Has your vision changed?
- Do you have a family history of glaucoma? Which type is most common?
- Have you ever been tested for glaucoma before? What were the results?
Deal with glaucoma today to prevent vision loss
At Perrysburg Eye Center, we believe in making eye care simple. Contact us today or give us a call at 419-874-3125 and schedule an appointment to discuss glaucoma treatment options.