So many things in life are taken for granted because we've always had them; a perfect example is eyesight. Many people don’t realize this, but glaucoma is the second largest cause of blindness in the United States, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation. Another startling fact is that of the more than 2 million people who have glaucoma, only about 50% are aware that they have the disease. Below are some of the ways you can prevent glaucoma.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a disease in which the optic nerve becomes damaged, leading to progressive blindness. Glaucoma can come in one of two forms: open-angle and angle-closure glaucoma. Open-angle is the more common type of glaucoma but it doesn’t cause blindness quite as quickly as angle-closure glaucoma if left untreated. There is no glaucoma cure and because of the severity of this disease, it’s important to do everything possible to prevent it from happening to you and your loved ones.
- Eye Exams
Of all the ways to prevent glaucoma, regular eye checkups are the most important. This is important at any age, but eye exams should become more frequent as you age due to an increased risk for the condition. While an individual younger than 40 years of age may get by with an eye exam every two to three years, an individual older than 60 years of age should have an annual exam. This is even more important if you have risk factors for glaucoma.
Your eye doctor can examine your eyes and give you a special test designed to detect glaucoma. Even if you’re in early stages, the doctor may be able to successfully treat the disease with medication that can lower the elevated intraocular pressure (IOP), which causes optic nerve damage. Surgery may also be an option with early detection.
- Exercise An active lifestyle can reduce your risk for glaucoma. Regular exercise will help your overall health and also help improve your IOP.
- Healthy Diet Eating healthy is right up there with exercise when it comes to preventing glaucoma and promoting overall good mental and physical health. Elevated insulin levels can increase your IOP. Avoid eating too many foods high in sugar or grain, because these two food groups tend to increase your insulin levels. Rice, pasta, breads, potatoes, and cereal are foods you may want to consume in moderation.
- Eye Protection It’s important to wear protective eyewear in hazardous situations, because eye injury may lead to certain types of glaucoma. Protect your eyes during construction, remodeling, or sporting events.
Although you may not be able to completely prevent glaucoma, it can be beneficial to know if you’re at risk of developing glaucoma. Here are some possible risk factors:
- Age - Those more than 60 years of age are at higher risk.
- Ethnic background - African Americans are at higher risk than Caucasians.
- Family history of glaucoma
- Elevated IOP
- Medical conditions – Those with high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease are at higher risk
- Long-term use of corticosteroid medications