According to the World Health Organization glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the US, but more importantly, glaucoma is preventable and manageable if caught early. While anyone is susceptible to glaucoma, our elderly loved ones are more likely to develop the disease. Therefore, it’s important to know what Glaucoma is and what steps you can do to help yourself and your loved ones.
What is Glaucoma
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve which can result in vision loss or blindness.
The Eye – The Very Basics
The eye is comprised of multiple layers and tissues. The front of the eye is called the anterior chamber; the chamber regularly has clear fluid moving throughout to nourish the surround eye tissues. Upon leaving the chamber, the fluid travels through to the open angle where the iris and cornea meet, where the fluid travels through the spongy meshwork, and leaves the eye.
Because of the structure of the eye, there are various types of Glaucoma disease that result in different symptoms and results.
The most common form of Glaucoma, occurs when the ocular fluid pressure builds around the open-angle of the eye. As fluid pressure builds, the ocular nerve, which sends information from the eye to the brain becomes strained. If the pressure gets too great, vision loss and blindness can occur.
Low-Tension or Normal-Tension Glaucoma
This Glaucoma disease is when the pressure of the fluid is normal or low, but optic nerve damage and narrowed side vision occur.
This occurs when the angle at the cornea and iris is blocked and the fluid can’t leave the eye. The fluid pressure may build up quickly and is a medical emergency. Symptoms can include severe pain, nausea, eye redness and blurred vision.
These are just a few of the various glaucoma diseases, other glaucoma diseases can be congenital or secondary due to medications or other medical conditions.
Symptoms & Those Susceptible
Glaucoma is a serious degenerative disease, and while it is the second leading cause of blindness, it is the leading cause of preventable blindness. Symptoms of glaucoma can vary between individuals, but many people may not realize they have glaucoma as symptoms can develop slowly, without pain or vision loss. However, if left untreated glaucoma can cause a loss of peripheral vision, until central vision or total vision loss occurs. While anyone is susceptible to glaucoma, African Americans, Hispanics and individuals over 60 years old are more likely to develop glaucoma.
Treatment & Care
Only a detailed full vision exam, including tonometry (glaucoma test, measuring the intraocular pressure in the eye), visual field exam and visual acuity assessment and dilated eye exam can determine the various types of glaucoma. It is recommended for individuals over 40 to have an eye exam every two to four years and for individuals over 55, or 50 year olds with a family history of glaucoma to have annual vision exams.
If diagnosed and caught early, the disease is manageable to keep the condition under control from progressing further. There is no cure for glaucoma and any vision loss or blindness is permanent. Glaucoma can be treated with eye drops, oral medications or surgery; however, eye drops are the most often proscribed treatment. In order to protect the remaining health of the eye, it’s important to regularly follow the proscribed treatment.
If helping an elderly individual, it may be necessary to assist them in their eye drop treatment. From decreased fine motor control to memory loss, assistance and care is needed to make sure the individual is getting the treatment they need each day, whether from a loved one or assisted living professional.
Coping with glaucoma can be difficult. Whether from a primary diagnosis or the result of a secondary condition such as high blood pressure or diabetes, it’s important to remember that vision loss from glaucoma is permanent. Therefore, it’s vital for the health of the eye and general health of the individual to have regular eye exams and follow the proscribed treatment.