January is Glaucoma Awareness Month; in recognition of this, it is important to stay informed of this incurable, yet preventable disease. Use the information in this article to gain a better understanding of Glaucoma, and what you can do to keep it from affecting yourself, and others.
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve and can result in vision loss and blindness. It is currently the leading cause of blindness in the United States. However, with early detection and treatment, you can often protect your eyes against serious vision loss. It can occur at any age but is more common in older adults. Because chronic forms of glaucoma can destroy vision before any signs or symptoms are apparent, be aware of these risk factors:
- Having high internal eye pressure (intraocular pressure)
- Being over age 60
- Being black or Hispanic
- Having a family history of the condition
- Having certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and sickle cell anemia
- Having certain eye conditions, such as nearsightedness
- Having had an eye injury or certain types of eye surgery
- Early estrogen deficiency, such as can occur after removal of both ovaries (bilateral oophorectomy) before age 43
- Taking corticosteroid medications, especially eye drops, for a long time
Your doctor will review your medical history and conduct a comprehensive eye examination. He or she may perform several tests, including:
- Measuring intraocular pressure (tonometry)
- Testing for optic nerve damage
- Checking for areas of vision loss (visual field test)
- Measuring corneal thickness (pachymetry)
- Inspecting the drainage angle (gonioscopy)
The goal of glaucoma treatment is to lower pressure in your eye (intraocular pressure). Depending on your situation, your options may include eye drops, laser treatment or surgery.
Glaucoma treatment often starts with prescription eye drops. These can help decrease eye pressure by improving how fluid drains from your eye or by decreasing the amount of fluid your eye makes.
If eye drops alone don’t bring your eye pressure down to the desired level, your doctor may also prescribe an oral medication, usually a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor. Possible side effects include frequent urination, tingling in the fingers and toes, depression, stomach upset, and kidney stones.
Surgery and other therapies
Other treatment options include laser therapy and various surgical procedures. Possible complications include pain, redness, infection, inflammation, bleeding, abnormally high or low eye pressure, and loss of vision. Some types of eye surgery may speed the development of cataracts.
You’ll need to see your doctor for follow-up exams. And you may eventually need to undergo additional procedures if your eye pressure begins to rise or other changes occur in your eye.
Lifestyle and home remedies
These tips may help you control high eye pressure or promote eye health.
- Eat a healthy diet.Eating a healthy diet can help you maintain your health, but it won’t prevent glaucoma from worsening. Several vitamins and nutrients are important to eye health, including those found in dark, leafy greens and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Exercise safely.Regular exercise may reduce eye pressure in open-angle glaucoma. Talk to your doctor about an appropriate exercise program.
- Limit your caffeine.Drinking beverages with large amounts of caffeine may increase your eye pressure.
- Sip fluids frequently.Drink only moderate amounts of fluids at any given time during the course of a day. Drinking a quart or more of any liquid within a short time may temporarily increase eye pressure.
- Sleep with your head elevated.Using a wedge pillow that keeps your head slightly raised, about 20 degrees, has been shown to reduce intraocular eye pressure while you sleep.
- Take prescribed medicine.Using your eye drops or other medications as prescribed can help you get the best possible result from your treatment. Be sure to use the drops exactly as prescribed. Otherwise, your optic nerve damage could get even worse.
Because some of the eye drops are absorbed into your bloodstream, you may experience some side effects unrelated to your eyes. To minimize this absorption, close your eyes for one to two minutes after putting the drops in. Or press lightly at the corner of your eye near your nose to close the tear duct for one or two minutes. Wipe off any unused drops from your eyelid.
Once again, it is important to look for signs of Glaucoma as the disease is preventable in its early stages. Stay aware of the signs to help promote good health. Follow North End Waterfront Health on twitter as we continue to share facts and help to spread awareness about Glaucoma.