Aging eyes are at increased risk for developing vision problems. More than three million Americans suffer from glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness, yet only half are conscious of their condition.
January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, an important time to educate ourselves about this progressive eye disease. Yearly comprehensive eye exams are essential for diagnosing glaucoma early and preventing vision loss.
How Does Glaucoma Affect My Vision?
Glaucoma is a family of eye diseases characterized by elevated levels of intraocular pressure (IOP). Elevated eye pressure can damage the optic nerve, which sends visual signals to the brain.
Glaucoma is frequently referred to as “the sneak thief of sight” due to its ability to progress unnoticed or without ocular discomfort. At first, the disease affects the peripheral vision, but most people do not notice the narrowing of their visual field. Unfortunately, vision loss from glaucoma is permanent, and there is no cure.
“Some people say they don’t need glasses, so they don’t need to see an eye doctor,” said Tara O’Rourke, OD, a Pennsylvania optometrist. “It’s important for everyone to have yearly eye exams to monitor the health of the eye, especially for patients over the age of 50” (Medical Xpress).
Glaucoma Treatments Can Prevent Further Vision Loss
While it is not possible to recover vision loss caused by glaucoma, there are various treatments available to reduce IOP to safer levels to slow the progression of the disease. These treatments may include eye drops, which can decrease fluid production in the eye or increase fluid outflow. Other options include oral medication, laser therapy and surgical procedures.
Benefits of Exercise
Regular exercise provides many health benefits, and research shows exercising like walking or jogging three times per week can lower IOP. Consistent exercise is best to get optimal results. Yoga is an excellent fitness activity, but it is best to avoid inverted positions, which can increase eye pressure.
Who Is at Risk for Developing Glaucoma?
Anyone can develop glaucoma, but certain people have risk factors that make them more likely to develop the disease. You have a higher chance of getting the disease if you …
- Are older than 60.
- Have relatives with glaucoma.
- Are of Hispanic, African or Asian descent. Glaucoma is six to eight times more common in African Americans than Caucasians.
- Have high eye pressure.
- Are very nearsighted or farsighted.
- Have had an eye injury.
- Have a thin cornea.
- Take steroid medications.
Will My Ophthalmologist Test Me for Glaucoma?
Your eye doctor can test you for glaucoma at your next comprehensive eye exam. Your doctor will give you a visual acuity test and evaluate you for glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and other eye conditions. A regular eye exam is painless and simple, and most exams take less than one hour.
Find an Ophthalmologist in Your Area
Make good eye care a priority and have your eyes examined. Regular visits to your eye doctor can help preserve your vision for years to come. Celebrate Glaucoma Awareness Month by calling to make an appointment. If you are not under the care of a board-certified ophthalmologist, we can help you find a physician in your area.