When it comes to your vision, the age-old expression an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, should be words to live by. After all, according to a study done by the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, when it comes to ranking the diseases Americans fear the most, losing your sight was right up there in the top four with diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer. (1) Prevention begins with understanding the factors that can affect vision loss. Proactively protecting your eyes without ever needing that pound of cure begins with understanding the diseases and risk factors that can affect vision loss. And while there are numerous diseases that cause vision impairment and blindness, one of the most prevalent is glaucoma. Cited by the World Health Organization as the second leading cause of blindness in the world, glaucoma affects approximately 3 million Americans and accounts for up to 12% of all cases of blindness in the U.S. (2)
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma has been linked to an increase in fluid pressure inside your eye that can cause damage to your optic nerve. This intraocular pressure gets worse over time and without treatment, can result in permanent blindness or vision loss. This is the most common form of glaucoma and is known as primary open-angle glaucoma. Often, the damage is slow and painless, making it even more dangerous. Less common forms of glaucoma include:
This happens when the drainage system in the eye becomes blocked and can occur suddenly or over time.
Secondary glaucoma is typically caused by an external injury to the eye or the result of other medical conditions or medications.
Normal or Low-tension Glaucoma
This is damage to the optic nerve that occurs with normal fluid pressure. It is possible that it is linked to a hyper-sensitive optic nerve or reduced blood supply to the optic nerve.
- Age and Ethnic Origin – People over the age of 60 are more prone to glaucoma but those of African-American, Asian, or Hispanic descent are far more likely to develop the disease at a much earlier age of 40 and older.
- Nearsighted / Farsighted – Those with either nearsightedness (high myopia) or farsightedness (hyperopia) appear to be at higher risk for developing glaucoma.
- Corticosteroids – Prolonged use of the corticosteroids, (cortisone, hydrocortisone, prednisone) found in eye drops, inhalers and other mediums, can increase your risk factor.
- High / Low Blood Pressure, Diabetes – Any condition that can affect blood flow potentially can be a risk factor for developing glaucoma.
- Genetics – Glaucoma is much more common in people with a family history of the disease.
- Eye Injury / Physical Conditions – External injuries to the eye or physical conditions like an abnormally thin cornea can contribute to the development of glaucoma.
There is no cure for glaucoma and once a patient starts treatment, it must be continued for the duration of their life to slow the progress of the disease. The treatment is designed to minimize the pressure in the eye, thereby limiting damage to the optic nerve. Depending on the severity of the disease, treatment can range from prescription eye drops and other medications to drainage implants or laser surgery.
Prevention / Minimizing Risk Factors
Many of the risk factors for glaucoma, such as age, ethnicity, genetics and physical conditions cannot be controlled. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help to lower your overall risk.
- Avoid excessive caffeine and smoking.
- Get regular exercise.
- Maintain a healthy diet, including foods that support eye health and are rich in Vitamin A, E, D, C, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Minimize over-exposure of direct sunlight to your eyes.
The #1 most important thing you can do to minimize your risk of developing glaucoma is regular eye exams. The disease is often symptom-less in the early stages, making it essential to get regular, comprehensive eye exams so treatment can begin immediately to slow the progress of the disease and prevent damage to the optic nerve. Don’t take chances with the things you literally see the world with. Schedule an eye exam today with the professionals at Tyson Eye. Whether you are experiencing symptoms or not, avoid as much of that pound of cure as possible with preventive care. Contact us today for more information or to schedule a consultation.