5 Things Everyone Should Know About Glaucoma

5 things everyone should know about glaucoma

Vision loss is a natural part of aging; by the time most adults reach 65, they wear corrective lenses. However, there is a difference between age-related vision loss and blindness associated with eye diseases like glaucoma.

Glaucoma describes a group of conditions rooted in fluid build-up inside the eye (the aqueous humor). Over time, accumulated pressure damages the optic nerve, leading to vision loss and – potentially – blindness. There are several different types of glaucoma, but the most common type is called open-angle glaucoma. 

Glaucoma Is A Leading Cause Of Senior Blindness

Glaucoma is one of the most common causes of blindness in seniors. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) states, “An estimated 1 million Americans over 65 years of age have experienced loss of vision associated with glaucoma, and approximately 75 percent of persons who are legally blind because of glaucoma are over the age of 65.”

Here is what seniors and their caregivers need to know about glaucoma and the importance of vision care as we age.

Open-angle glaucoma develops slowly

Glaucoma is commonly referred to as a “sneak thief of sight” because it develops over time. Also, very few people experience symptoms of glaucoma until it is far into its development. As a result, vision loss may seem to occur rather suddenly when, in fact, it’s diminished little by little, proportional to optic nerve damage.

This doesn’t mean that glaucoma diagnosis means you’re going blind, but it means you’ve already lost some of your vision, and treatment is essential to slow down future progressive vision loss.

Lifestyle plays a part in glaucoma

There are several risk factors associated with glaucoma. The first is genetics, which is out of a person’s control. However, two of the major risk factors – high blood pressure and diabetes – are controllable via healthy lifestyle choices. 

Eating well, and focusing on an anti-inflammatory diet, are one of the best things adults and seniors can do to live a healthy, active, and independent life. Anti-inflammatory diets prevent, manage, and reverse some of the most common senior health issues – like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, arthritis, and more. 

Other risk factors for developing glaucoma are:

  • Being African American or Latino
  • A history of eye trauma or thin corneas
  • Using corticosteroids (especially in eye drops)
  • Extreme near/farsightedness

Observing annual eye exams is one of the best ways to catch glaucoma early. Optometrists and their screening/diagnostic equipment notice changes in the field of vision faster than you will. The good news is that almost all healthcare insurance plans – including Medicare/Medical – cover glaucoma tests every 12 months for adults 50 years and older. 

Speak to your parent or loved one’s healthcare provider or optometrist to ensure they’re observing their annual or bi-annual wellness visits.

It causes changes in the field of vision

The most common causes of compromised vision cause general blurred vision (nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, or age-related presbyopia). Glaucoma is different. Seniors with glaucoma typically experience changes in certain areas of their field of vision – so they might lose peripheral vision first while retaining center vision. Others occasionally lose various spots throughout their field of vision or describe it as if they’re constantly looking through a very dirty pair of glasses.

If your loved one has glaucoma, know they need access to well-lit areas, so this is a good time to ensure their home has sufficient task and safety lighting. Depending on what they do and don’t see, it’s also time to speak to their optometrist and physician about driving restrictions and create an agreement about when it’s time to exchange the car keys for transportation services

Glaucoma can be treated but not reversed

There is no way to turn back time and restore glaucoma-related optic nerve damage or vision loss. Instead, optometrists refer patients to ophthalmologists who treat and manage the condition. Treating glaucoma focuses on relieving pressure inside the eye, which reduces damage to the optic nerve. 

This may involve one or a combination of the following:

  • Special eye drops 
  • Oral medication
  • Laser surgery
  • Optic surgery

In most cases, seniors with glaucoma visit their optometrist or ophthalmologist twice per year. Patients may get check-ups every three months in more serious cases or those that are more challenging to control.

Vision loss decreases senior independence

Over time, progressive vision loss impacts seniors’ ability to live at home independently. In best-case scenarios, glaucoma is caught early, and a combination of medication and glaucoma treatments maintains healthy vision for many years to come. However, late-stage glaucoma diagnosis or the diagnosis of glaucoma on top of existing vision loss may mean it’s time to bring in outside support.

The loss of one’s vision can mean the loss or diminishment of the ability to perform daily tasks. For example, seniors with notable vision loss, especially if combined with other medical diagnoses or age-related decline may find it harder to:

  • Drive safely – especially outside of daylight hours.
  • Shop for groceries.
  • Cook their favorite meals.
  • Maintain a clean home.
  • Read prescription labels and other fine print
  • Balance or navigate areas like stairs, elevation changes, or uneven walkways that require adequate depth perception.

If your senior loved one lives alone, it’s time to discuss a long-term care plan that increases care levels as glaucoma and vision-related changes make it harder to live safely on their own.

Is Glaucoma Or Vision Loss Affecting A Loved One’s Ability To Age-In-Place?

Is glaucoma or advanced vision loss negatively impacting a senior loved one’s daily life? Studies show that more than 90% of seniors prefer to age in their own homes whenever possible. In cases where healthy seniors with vision loss need extra support, that might look like once-a-week visits and errand running. Over time, our licensed caregivers increase care to meet the age- and ability-related needs of our clients. 

Contact HomeAide Home Care to schedule a free, in-home assessment and learn more about which of our services make it safer and easier for your loved one to remain safe, independent, and engaged in the community.

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