This week we have a guest post from Meredith Rogers at Geriatric Nursing on the dangers of Glaucoma. She’s discussing a very important topic for me (and probably for some of you as well – Glaucoma). Without further ado … here’s Meredith Rogers:
Glaucoma is group of eye diseases, which impair sight and lead to progressive vision loss if left untreated. It accounts for up to 12% of all cases of blindness nationwide. Despite its harrowing and pervasive impact on eye health, there is very little awareness about this condition.
How Does Glaucoma Affect the Eye?
When glaucoma develops, the optic nerve is injured, causing cell death or significant alterations in the retinal ganglion cells. Also, changes might also occur in the brain and visual cortex, which is responsible for processing the impulses of the optic nerve. It results in reduced peripheral (side) vision and, over time, sight may disappear entirely once the central vision becomes affected.
Symptoms of Glaucoma You Should Never Ignore
Knowing the early warning signs of glaucoma, however, can save your sight. Many people who have the disease live with it for several years before seeking help, without even being aware of the symptoms. By the time they are diagnosed and receive treatment, it may already be too late – once glaucoma permanently damages the optic nerve, the lost vision (whether peripheral, central or both) can no longer be restored.
Here are the most critical symptoms you need to look out for when it comes to glaucoma:
- Blurred vision: you may notice that your eyesight is not as sharp as it used to be. It may become blurry or hazy and you may have difficulty focusing on distant objects; similarly, you might see blind spots in your vision. Even if you notice vision loss in only one of your eyes, schedule an appointment with your ophthalmologist immediately!
- Halos around light: a telltale sign of glaucoma is seeing halos, starbursts or rainbow colors around lights; this effect should be most obvious when driving or during night time.
- Tunnel vision: in its incipient phases, glaucoma causes the patient’s side vision to slowly deteriorate. If you are only able to see objects, which are straight ahead, or you notice blurred vision around the edges of your field of view in both eyes, then it is essential for you to visit your doctor as soon as possible. Many people wait until their sight is significantly limited to get a check-up, by which time the disease is already in its advanced stages.
- Eye pain: if you experience sudden headaches clustered behind the brow or eye pain (especially in combination with any of the previous symptoms), seek treatment immediately! This is a sign of late stage glaucoma and could mean that your optic nerve has been rapidly and irreversibly damaged.
- Eyeball changes: swollen or cloudy iris, redness around the eyes and enlarged pupils which are nonreactive to light can all indicate that you have developed glaucoma,
- Sudden vision loss.
- Severe nausea or vomiting.
What can you do to prevent vision loss?
Although glaucoma itself cannot be prevented (at least not according to the current research available), the loss of sight or blindness can be avoided if the disease is diagnosed and treated early.
The only way of halting glaucoma and its progression is by having regular eye exams (particularly the comprehensive dilated eye exam) and detecting any issues early on. Treatment options usually involve eye drops, prescription drugs and sometimes laser intervention or surgery.
How else can you protect yourself?
Aside from routine check-ups and becoming more aware of the warning signs, you should also make sure to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Try to limit alcohol and caffeine (which reduces blood flow to the eyes), eat foods high in carotenoids (yellow and orange vegetables which are high in vitamin A and help maintain proper vision), and consume a diet rich in antioxidants (like fruits and vegetables). Moderate exercise has also been shown to reduce intraocular pressure (which can be a major risk factor for developing glaucoma). Lastly, using protective eyewear when necessary to avoid eye injuries is a must for preventing glaucoma.