Macular degeneration takes the lead as the biggest cause of vision loss in America. However, glaucoma is definitely in second place. While there is almost nothing that can be done about macular degeneration, there is hope for those suffering from glaucoma. And, for those at risk for developing glaucoma. Here are a few things you can do to take the first steps to prevent glaucoma.
Glaucoma is actually a group of diseases. They’re all caused by high pressure within the eye resulting 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 causes a gradual loss of sight. 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 parents 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 show up 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 nearsighted 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.
Treat and Prevent 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 eye problems that cause glaucoma. Lowering your intake of saturated fats is a good first step. But, it’s also important you add foods to your diet that contain the vitamins and nutrients that benefit your eyes.
A Glaucoma-Preventing Diet
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 doesn’t always go hand in hand with 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 can help to prevent glaucoma. You can find saturated fats in red meats and dairy products. Use vegetable oils when you can because many of them include healthy fat, omega-3. A diet high in vegetables, 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 and grab lunch on the run. We might only sit down to eat dinner when our schedule permits it.
For people with a fast-paced lifestyle, 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.
An Active Lifestyle to Prevent 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 you should start with. They’ll guide you on how often you should exercise. For some people, it’s necessary to start out slowly and build up with an exercise program over time.
Regular Checkups with Your Eye Doctor
Your eye doctor can be your best friend. Take advantage of their knowledge and experience with eye health. 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 more frequently. Discuss your concerns with your eye doctor; there may be new methods of testing and treatment.
Remember that just because a treatment works for your friend does not necessarily mean that it will work for you. Your doctor is the best resource you can have for what steps you should take. Everyone reacts differently to treatments. Your eye doctor can help you to find the best possible treatment for your condition.
The one thing you can do that won’t cause harm is improving your lifestyle. You have complete control over what you eat and how active you are. Take your health into your own hands; quit smoking and drink less. Eat your vegetables, healthy fast and other eye-healthy nutrients. Take a vision-boosting supplement for convenience. Your health is your biggest asset; take care of it and it’ll take care of you.