Many people have glaucoma but don't know it.
Glaucoma slowly damages the eye’s optic nerve, the important link between the eye and the brain. People with glaucoma usually lose vision before they notice any problems with their eyes.
The most common type of glaucoma is called primary open-angle glaucoma. This is when fluid in the eye does not drain properly. Pressure inside the eye goes up and damages the optic nerve. This form of glaucoma usually steals your side vision (peripheral vision) first, so you probably won't notice changes in your vision right away. Over time, though, you'll lose central vision and have trouble seeing things.
Unfortunately, you can’t get back any vision you lose from glaucoma. And ophthalmologists don’t yet know how to stop glaucoma from developing in the first place. However, there are ways to prevent serious vision loss and blindness from glaucoma. Hint: Regular eye exams play a big role in saving sight!
1. Catch this silent thief of sight before you lose vision. If you are at risk for glaucoma, you should see your ophthalmologist regularly for eye exams. They can find the disease in its early stages, then watch and treat it. It’s equally important to take your glaucoma medications exactly as your doctor says to.
2. Taking steroid medication? Talk with your eye doctor. Taking steroids for long periods of time or in high doses can raise your eye pressure, especially if you have glaucoma. Steroids that you take by mouth or use around your eyes are the most likely to raise eye pressure. Always tell your eye doctor if you are taking any kind of steroids.
3. Eat well to see well. Eat plenty of leafy green vegetables and colored fruits, berries and vegetables every day. They contain vitamins and minerals that protect your body and eyes. In fact, studies show that eye-healthy foods are better than vitamins at preventing glaucoma.
4. Exercise … but carefully. Intense exercise that raises your heart rate can also raise your eye pressure. But brisk walking and regular exercise at a moderate pace can lower eye pressure and improve your overall health. If you lift heavy weights, have a qualified trainer show you how to breathe properly during this exercise.
5. Protect your eyes from injury. Eye injuries can lead to glaucoma. Always wear protective eyewear during sports or while working on your home and in your yard.
6. Avoid head-down positions. If you have glaucoma or you're at high risk of the disease, don’t place your head below your heart for long periods of time. That includes staying away from inversion tables or gravity boots for back pain. Head-down positions can greatly raise your eye pressure. Some people with severe glaucoma may need to avoid certain yoga positions. Ask your doctor if you need to avoid a head-down position in your exercise routine.
7. Sleep in the right position. If you have glaucoma, avoid sleeping with your eye against the pillow or on your arm. People who have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are at risk of glaucoma, or may have more serious disease. If you snore heavily or stop breathing throughout the night, get tested for OSA.
8. Protect your eyes from sunlight. There is some evidence that the sun’s UV rays may cause a type of glaucoma. Wear quality polarized sunglasses and a hat when exploring the outdoors.
9. Keep your mouth clean. Recent research links gum disease with optic nerve damage in glaucoma. Brush and floss your teeth every day and see your dentist regularly.
10. Tell your ophthalmologist about your blood pressure medicine. If your blood pressure drops too low during sleep, it can worsen glaucoma damage. If you take blood pressure medicine at night, or if you have low blood pressure symptoms (like feeling woozy), tell your ophthalmologist. They can discuss this with your primary care doctor. Do not change your blood pressure medication on your own.