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January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month: Here’s What You Need to Know

Learn More About This Common and Progressive Eye Disease

glaucoma awareness month

As we enter January, which is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, it is the perfect time to learn more about glaucoma in order to protect yourself and your loved ones who might be at risk for this condition.

What Is Glaucoma?

It may interest you to know that Glaucoma is not a single issue, but rather a group of eye disorders which results in the loss of optic nerve tissue, and hence loss of vision. It is the result of a buildup of fluid inside the eye.

With glaucoma, this buildup causes intraocular pressure, which damages the optic nerve. The longer this pressure persists, the greater the damge to the nerve and the greater the chance of loss of vision and eventually, permanent blindness.

What Are Signs of Glaucoma?

Unfortunately, you are unlikely to notice this increased fluid in the eye, so the only way to really detect glaucoma early is through regular optometric examinations. Glaucoma is traditionally inherited, so if your parents, grandparents or other relatives have had it, you should be on the lookout for it, especially as you get older (particularly over the age of 60, or African-Americans over the age of 40).

You also may be more likely to develop glaucoma if you have sustained eye trauma, have used corticosteroids for an extended period of time, or have a medical condition like diabetes or high blood pressure.

What Can You Do If You Have Glaucoma?

Your doctor can prescribe medication that will help you with your glaucoma, but there are many things that you can do to keep your eyes healthy as well, including:

  • Exercise – The right exercise can improve blood flow throughout your body, including to the nerves of your eye, as well as lower eye pressure.
  • Eat Healthy – There may be some benefit to your glaucoma to eating foods high in antioxidants. Even if they do not help with your glaucoma, antioxidants have many other health benefits. Also cutting out smoking and limiting caffeine are very important for general health and can help slow the debilitating effects of glaucoma.
  • Elevate Your Head at Night – This can reduce eye pressure.
  • Drink Slowly – drinking a lot at once or drinking quickly can generate eye strain.
  • Keep Track of MedicationsProper medication management is critical to managing glaucoma. Your doctors need to know what you are taking so that medications do not interfere with each other, and need to know from you what is working and what is not with respect to medication.

If you live with someone with glaucoma, their loss of vision can create challenges and health risks. Here are some ways you can help:

  • Add lighting – People with glaucoma have hard time seeing in areas of low light. Provide more lighting in hallways and other darkened areas of the home.
  • Remove area rugs – These are hard for people with glaucoma to see and present a tripping hazard.
  • Mark handrails – putting colored tape on handrails and steps can make it easier for people with glaucoma to locate stairways and not bump into them or fall.

While there is currently no treatment for glaucoma, early detection, proper medication and adaptive measures can make it possible for those afflicted with glaucoma to continue to live full and capable lives.

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