Did you know glaucoma is one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness? Or that 3 million Americans have it? Those facts are scary in and of themselves, but what’s more concerning is that half of the people who have glaucoma are completely unaware of it. Let us paraphrase, 1.5 million Americans are blindly (no pun intended) going about their day with no idea they are slowly losing their vision. The good news is – you can change this!
What is Glaucoma?
For those who don’t know, glaucoma is a group of related eye disorders that cause damage to the optic nerve (the optic nerve carries information from the eye to the brain).
There are two main types of glaucoma – open-angle glaucom, and angle closure glaucoma.
Open-angle glaucoma is by far the most common form of glaucoma, accounting for 90% of cases. Open-angle glaucoma is a direct result of slow clogging drainage canals which increase eye pressure. As long as the pressure persists, the optic nerve is coincidentally damaged. Not only is open-angle life-long and chronic – it is initially undetectable. Many people don’t experience any symptoms in the early stages of the disease, therefore they fail to notice their vision slowly declining. The problem with this is that any vision loss experienced is permanent.
Angle closure glaucoma, also referred to as acute glaucoma or narrow-angle glaucoma, occurs when the angle between the iris and the cornea closes (as opposed to narrowing), causing the drainage canals to becomes blocked. In contrast with open-angle glaucoma, angle closure glaucoma develops rapidly. With this type, you DO experience symptoms and the damage is usually noticeable.
Are You at Risk?
Here are some of the risk factors associated with glaucoma.
Those 60 years over are six times more likely to develop glaucoma than those who are in younger age groups.
African Americans and Hispanics are at a greater risk of developing glaucoma than other races.
You are 4 – 9 times more likely to develop glaucoma if an immediate relative has glaucoma.
Heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, current or previous eye injuries, and prolonged use of oral steroids or cortisone treatments increase your risk of developing glaucoma.
How Caregivers Can Help Seniors With Glaucoma
One of the most common concerns for people diagnosed with glaucoma is blindness. This concern is completely valid because glaucoma can lead to vision loss and in extreme cases, blindness. The good news is that it can be prevented with proper and consistent treatment. Here are a few ways caregivers can help seniors with glaucoma (especially for those with impaired vision).
Caregivers can ensure the home is always well-lit.
Caregivers can help ensure the home is adequately lit at all times. This is important for a few reasons. First of all, poor lighting can lead to eye strain for people who have difficulty seeing, which in turn can cause headaches. Second, dim lighting increases the chances of having an accident, including falls. This is a huge concern because senior falls can be detrimental and lead to further complications.
Caregivers can help around the house.
Caregivers can be highly useful for tasks that may be difficult for those with impaired vision. This includes finding items, helping prepare meals, and grabbing items in hard to reach places.
Caregivers can remind you to be consistent with glaucoma medications.
Caregivers can be extremely helpful when it comes to reminding you to take glaucoma medications properly and at regular intervals. Eyedrops are one of the most common treatments used to lower eye pressure in those with glaucoma. Unfortunately, many people don’t administer them properly or use them frequently enough. As a result, the medications are far less effective and can cause spikes in eye pressure. This can cause optic nerve damage and vision loss.
Caregivers can help seniors make and keep eye appointments.
One of the best things seniors can do to protect their eyesight is to get regular eye exams. Caregivers can help seniors by encouraging them to get their eyes checked regularly and by helping them make and keep their appointments. Caregivers can also help seniors get to their eye appointments by driving them.
On the bright side…
Even though glaucoma is incurable, it is completely treatable, meaning the disease can be managed. Taking the initiative to get regular eye exams and staying consistent with your treatment is the best way to preserve your vision.
It’s simply a tragedy that anyone today goes blind from glaucoma, when it’s so unnecessary.
“What Seniors and Caregivers Need to Know About Glaucoma,” Ashley LeVine, Amada Blog Contributor.