A Glaucoma Game Plan: How to Prevent, Spot or Manage a Common Vision Threat
Here’s an eye-opening stat about glaucoma: three-quarters (75%) of the individuals who are legally blind due to this disease are seniors.
That’s according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.
That means those over the age of 65 should be extra vigilant to spot and react quickly to any potential symptoms of this all-to-common disease.
Glaucoma is a broad term used to describe a group of conditions that take place when the optic nerve and, in turn, your vision is damaged. What’s more, there are different forms of glaucoma such as angle-closure glaucoma and normal-tension glaucoma.
The good news is there are plenty of things you can do to stay ahead of this disease and, react accordingly should you find out you’re afflicted.
One of the best ways to fight glaucoma is through early detection. And to detect this disease before too much permanent damage has been done, seniors should be well-versed in the risk factors that make them more likely to be diagnosed with glaucoma.
Of course, simply being above the age of 60 is one of those risk factors. Seniors are at a greater risk for indirectly contracting the disease in a large part due to their exposure to potential eye trauma and other health issues that come with age.
Some of the other risk factors include:
- Family history of glaucoma
- Being of African-American or Hispanic descent
- High eye pressure
- Being farsighted or nearsighted
- Suffering an eye injury
- Thin corneas
- Thinning of the optic nerve, and
- Other health conditions like diabetes, poor blood circulation, and migraines.
What’s more, having more than one of these risk factors greatly increases a person’s likelihood of developing glaucoma.
Age-based screenings unless …
When it comes to glaucoma, the best thing you can do is get yourself tested regularly. During your eye exam, the doctor will check your eye pressure (tonometry), conduct a glaucoma screening, inspect the drainage angle of your eye, check your optic nerve for damage, and test peripheral vision.
If you don’t have an increased risk for glaucoma, you should follow this age-based schedule for eye exams.
- Younger than age 40: every five to 10 years.
- Age 40–54: every two to four years.
- Age 55–64: every one to three years.
- Age 65 and older: every one to two years.
If, however, you’re at an increased risk, talk to your doctor about how often you should be screened — as well as how.
Even more benefits of diet and exercise
As if you need more reasons to adhere to a healthy diet and exercise regimen (I keep thinking of the famous Jane Fonda line about the leaf here!), studies have shown these two factors can play a role in preventing glaucoma.
In terms of exercise, it’s been shown to be an effective way to reduce eye pressure, according to the Glaucoma Foundation. To that end, the Foundation recommends that patients with increased eye pressure walk or jog three or more times each week.
When it comes to food, you’ll want to be sure you’re eating foods that are rich in nutrients that can help prevent glaucoma as well other eye conditions like cataracts, macular degeneration, etc.
Some examples include:
Kale – rich in lutein and zeaxanthin – related to vitamin A and beta carotene — and are believed to protect eye tissues from sunlight damage.
Sweet potatoes – a good source of beta carotene, something your body coverts to vitamin A, which helps prevent dry eyes and night blindness.
Strawberries – generally good for your eyes; specifically, they’re high in vitamin C, an antioxidant that can lower your risk of cataracts.
Salmon – Omega-3 fatty acids have a number of ocular benefits, which include preventing dry eyes.
Green tea – loaded with antioxidants that are good for your eyes.
Being cautious and avoiding eye injuries is another way to prevent glaucoma. That means using eye protection during home improvement projects, sports, or any other activity that could cause eye trauma.
Finally, should you find yourself diagnosed with glaucoma, it’s critical to know about all the treatment options at your disposal. While health professionals will no doubt let you know all about the more traditional options (eye drops, eye pressure pills and, in severe cases, surgery), there are non-traditional options that have proven effective.
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