Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, and it affects roughly 3 million Americans. There’s no cure for glaucoma, glaucoma can’t be prevented, and the exact causes of glaucoma are unknown. However, there are things that you can do to lower your risk for the disease.Half of the people with glaucoma don't realize that they have it. Routine eye exams are the best way to protect yourself from the disease and prevent vision loss. Click To Tweet
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve at the back of your eye. If left untreated, glaucoma can result in loss of vision and blindness. Glaucoma can occur in one eye or both eyes. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma in the United States.
It can take years for people to realize that they have symptoms of glaucoma; many who have glaucoma aren’t aware that they have the disease. This is largely because the disease does not cause symptoms, or people do not identify the symptoms, early on.
Your vision changes throughout your life, and it’s normal for people to experience worsening vision as they get older. Slowly worsening vision is the most common early symptom of glaucoma. This is why so many people have glaucoma without realizing it.
Vision loss associated with glaucoma usually starts with the peripheral vision. Over time, your ability to see things off to the side slowly worsens. Some describe this loss of vision like a narrowing tunnel. The edges of your vision slowly grow towards the center, and the area that you can see gets smaller.
There’s no cure for glaucoma. Diagnosing and treating the disease early on can help slow the progression of the disease and prevent vision loss.
How to prevent vision loss and reduce your risk for glaucoma
Glaucoma can’t be prevented, but there are things that you can do to help reduce your risk for glaucoma, and prevent loss of vision from glaucoma.
Wear appropriate eye protection
Serious eye injuries can increase your risk for glaucoma. Wear safety glasses or protective eye wear during activities that present a risk for eye injuries: while using power tools, mowing the lawn, working with machinery, racket sports, cycling, etc. Also be sure to wear sunglasses and hats to prevent overexposure to the sun.
Healthy diet and regular exercise
Eating nutritious foods and staying physically active help you maintain a healthy weight, manage your blood pressure, reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes, and improve your overall level of health — these are things that can help lower your risk for glaucoma and other diseases.
Limit yourself to proper portion sizes and choose a diet of lean protein, whole grains, low fat dairy, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Be physically active every single day. You need at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day, and you receive even greater health benefits with more time spent moving.
Manage your blood pressure
Eye pressure is closely related to glaucoma. However, some people with high eye pressure don’t develop the disease, and people with normal eye pressure can develop glaucoma. High eye pressure does not cause glaucoma, but it is a risk factor.
Stress management can help you manage your blood pressure levels, along with a healthy diet and exercise.
Know your risk
Glaucoma typically affects older adults; people over the age of 60 are at the highest risk for glaucoma. African Americans over 40 years of age are also at an increased risk for glaucoma. You’re also at an increased risk for glaucoma if you have a family history of the disease.
Routine eye exams
Regular eye exams with an eye doctor, or optometrist, are the best way to protect yourself from glaucoma. During an eye examination, your doctor can test your peripheral vision and check for glaucoma and other eye problems.
If you have high eye pressure, your physician may prescribe eye drops that can help prevent glaucoma. Laser treatments and surgery are also used to treat glaucoma patients.
Annual eye exams help detect glaucoma while it is in its early stages. Finding the disease early is key in preventing vision loss.