There are more than three million people in the United States with glaucoma. The eye disease, the number two cause for blindness in this country, is known as “the sneak thief of sight,” as there are virtually no symptoms. Once vision is lost, the loss is permanent.
Although glaucoma primarily affects the middle-aged and elderly, it can impact on people of all ages. The loss of vision is caused by damage to the optic nerve, which is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain.
As of now, there is no cure for glaucoma. Yet, early detection and intervention in the form of medication that reduces the elevated intraocular pressure on the optic nerve or surgery can help slow or prevent further vision loss.
So what can you do to protect yourself and your loved ones from glaucoma?
Consider these prevention tips:
- Schedule regular eye exams. Since there are virtually no symptoms, you may not notice anything until significant vision is lost (which begins with loss of side or peripheral vision). This is why a comprehensive eye examination is so vital. For those over the age of 65, eye exams should be performed every six or 12 months.
- Be aware of the risk factors. Those at higher risk include people of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent. Other high- risk groups include people over 60, family members of those already diagnosed, diabetics, and people who are severely nearsighted.
- Follow a program of regular exercise. Research has shown that moderate exercise such as walking or jogging three or more times every week can lower intraocular pressure on the optic nerve.
- Wear protective eyewear. This is important when engaged in sports activities or home improvement projects. Eye injuries can result in traumatic glaucoma or secondary glaucoma.
- Take prescribed eye drops. Glaucoma eye drops can significantly reduce the risk that high eye pressure will progress to glaucoma. To be effective, eye drops prescribed by your doctor need to be used regularly even if you have no symptoms.