While macular degeneration may take the lead as the cause of vision loss in America, Glaucoma is definitely in second place. The good news is that while there is almost nothing that can be done about macular degeneration, there is hope for those suffering from glaucoma, or those at risk for developing glaucoma.
Glaucoma is actually a group of diseases which are caused when high pressure within the eye results in optic nerve damage.
Think of the optic nerve as a large cable made up of thousands of small wires. Each of these small wires carries images from your retina to your brain.
Built up pressure can damage these small wires causing blind spots to develop in your vision. If glaucoma is not diagnosed and treated it can lead to blindness in both eyes.
Most Common Types of Glaucoma
Primary glaucoma: Primary glaucoma is the most common and often sneaks up on people. There are two main categories of primary glaucoma:
- Open angle glaucoma: Open angle glaucoma is the more common of the two. It is caused by the drainage canal being slowly blocked over time. It is often detected by your eye doctor during routine exams.
- Closed angle glaucoma: Closed angle glaucoma is also known as acute glaucoma. It’s characterized by blurred vision and acute pain in the eye. This form is less common, but does not have the gradual build up that open angle glaucoma does.
Childhood glaucoma: Also known as congenital glaucoma, this is a rare form and is usually diagnosed in children before they reach one year of age. It’s caused by problems in the development of the drainage canals before birth.
A Silent Thief
Glaucoma is such a gradual loss of sight that many people do not even realize that they have a problem until extensive damage has been done.
According to Prevent Blindness America, risk factors for developing glaucoma include:
- Family history: People with parent or other relatives who have had glaucoma are more likely to develop the disease.
- Age: People over the age of 40 have a higher risk of developing glaucoma.
- Diabetes: People suffering from diabetes are at a higher risk.
- Race: An African and/or Afro-Caribbean heritage raises your risk by four to five times the levels of other races. It’s also more likely to be developed at an early age.
- Eye injury: Eye injuries or surgery can increase your risk of secondary glaucoma.
- Steroid use: Extended use of steroids may increase the risk of developing glaucoma.
- Myopia: People who are extremely near sighted are at greater risk of developing glaucoma.
Recent medical advances have lowered the risk of losing your sight if you have glaucoma. New techniques are now available to diagnose and treat the disease.
Treatment and Prevention of Glaucoma
There are steps that you can take to prevent the onset of glaucoma, especially in high risk patients. Aerobic exercises and a diet that is low in saturated fats can help to prevent the eye problems that cause glaucoma. While lowering your intake of saturated fats is a good first step, it is also important that you add foods to your diet that contain the vitamins and nutrients that benefit your eyes.
Changing your diet has a two-fold benefit for your health. It will provide the vitamins and minerals you need for healthy eyes and those same vitamins are great for the rest of your body as well. While high eye pressure is not always linked to high blood pressure the connection still remains. Your eyes depend on blood flow just as the rest of your body does. One way to control high blood pressure is to change your diet and exercise.
A healthy diet that is low in saturated fats found in red meat and dairy products can help to prevent glaucoma. Use vegetable oils when necessary many of them also include the healthy fat Omega-3. A diet high in vegetables and fish and chicken offers the best results. However, many people just don’t have the time to eat as much as a truly healthy diet requires. Many of us skip breakfast, grab lunch on the run, and may only actually sit down to eat our dinner.
For people with a fast paced life style an eye vitamin or eye supplement may be the best option. Many studies have been done that show adding vitamin supplements to your diet can lower your risk of developing glaucoma.
Regular exercise can help to lower blood pressure and may help to reduce high eye pressure as well. Before starting on an exercise program talk to your medical professional. They can help you determine what exercises your should start with and how often you should exercise. For some people it is necessary to start out slowly and build up an exercise program over time.
Your eye doctor can be your best friend. Anyone over 35 should talk to their doctor about tests to measure eye pressure. If you have any of the risk factors discussed talk to your doctor about scheduling eye exams on a more frequent basis. Discuss your concerns with your eye doctor, there may be new methods of testing and treatment.
Remember that just because a treatment or program works for your friend it does not necessarily mean that it will work as well for you. Your doctor is the best resource you can have for what steps you should take. Everyone reacts differently to treatments, you eye doctor can help you to find the best possible treatment for your condition.