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National Glaucoma Awareness Month Helps Fight 'The Sneak Thief of Sight'

Health & Aging

NationalGlaucomaAwarenessMonth.jpgMore than 3 million Americans currently suffer from glaucoma, a disease that is alarming for its stealth and severity. Known as “the sneak thief of sight,” glaucoma often shows no symptoms until some portion of vision is permanently lost.

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, a time for getting the word out about this disease that is the top cause of preventable blindness. By 2030, as many as 4.2 million U.S. residents are expected to suffer from glaucoma, according to National Eye Institute projections. Worldwide, half of the 60 million individuals with glaucoma don’t know they have the disease.

Despite the often-dire outcomes of glaucoma, damage from the disease is preventable. What difficulties do glaucoma sufferers experience in their daily lives, and how can seniors prevent vision loss from this thief of sight?

Day-to-Day Challenges

Loss of vision can affect just about every aspect of seniors’ daily lives, including driving, walking and even working around the house. Even when vision is not completely lost, glaucoma patients may have difficulty with reading, activities that require peripheral vision, and adapting to adjustments between light and dark.

Falls and traffic accidents increase when individuals suffer from vision impairment. One study found that individuals with glaucoma had a three times greater chance of having fallen within the past year.

Talking with your Doctor

Although vision lost to glaucoma cannot be restored, the good news is that the eye pressure that causes blindness can be successfully lowered through timely treatment. If you’re concerned about glaucoma, Mayo Clinic advises preparing for your appointment by making a list of questions, including:

  • Do my symptoms indicate glaucoma?
  • Do I need tests to confirm my diagnosis? Which ones?
  • What are the recommended treatment options?
  • Should I restrict my activities in any way?
  • What is my long-term prognosis?
  • Are there any self-care measures I can incorporate?
  • Will I need to see other health-care professionals?
  • How can I manage glaucoma along with other medical conditions?
  • How often should I expect to return for follow-up?

Be sure to thoroughly and accurately describe your symptoms to your doctor and to provide her with a list of all medications, vitamins and other supplements you’re taking.

Possible Treatment Options

After your doctor confirms a diagnosis of glaucoma, she may prescribe one or more treatments to reduce the pressure in your eyes. Treatments may include:

  • Prescription eye drops to lower pressure in the eyes by improving the process of draining fluid or lowering the amount of fluid the eye produces.
  • Oral prescription medicines that may be used along with eye drops. Side effects may include depression, upset stomach, frequent urination, kidney stones and a sensation of tingling in toes and fingers.
  • Laser therapy and surgical procedures. Complications may include inflammation, pain, infection, bleeding, high or low pressure in the eyes, and possible loss of vision.

Living with Glaucoma

Medical professionals note that there are some steps seniors can take at home to promote eye health and control pressure in the eyes. Eating a healthy diet including nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables won’t directly influence eye pressure but supports overall health. Safely exercising on a regular basis, on the other hand, may help decrease eye pressure in some cases of glaucoma. Using a wedge pillow to keep your head raised while you sleep also can help.

Most importantly, experts say, don’t allow glaucoma to limit your vibrant lifestyle. Treatments for glaucoma will continue to improve; meanwhile, trust your judgment to stay safe, but continue engaging in the activities you love.

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About Presbyterian Senior Living

Presbyterian Senior Living is a not-for-profit organization, fulfilling its charitable purpose and mission by providing high quality retirement choices, healthcare services and affordable residential living options for people 55 and older for more than 85 years. Headquartered in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, Presbyterian Senior Living provides services to approximately 6,000 seniors in 30 locations in the mid-Atlantic region of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio and Delaware.

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