Eye on Glaucoma: Have You Lost Sight to the Disease?

by MikeMeehan 1/9/2017 1:29 PM

For many, a glaucoma diagnosis represents the end of one chapter of life and the start of a new journey. It could mean the end of simple pleasures, like watching 3D movies or applying makeup. It could be a severe as blindness. Unfortunately, it can’t be cured. Glaucoma is sometimes referred to as the “sneak thief of sight,” because it usually comes with no symptoms, other than slow vision loss. It is common, with more than 200,000 new cases reported in the United States each year. A recent report from Prevent Blindness, a volunteer eye health and safety organization, anticipated the number of glaucoma cases to almost double in the next 15 years. In 2010, the number of people in the United States with glaucoma was estimated at 2.7 million. That number is expected to grow to 4.3 million by 2032, and then to 5.5 million by 2050. So what leads to glaucoma? The Damage Done: How High Eye Pressure Can Cause Glaucoma Thanks to your optic nerve, your brain perceives sight. The optic nerve is a grouping of nerve fibers that take visual information from the eye to the brain. Sometimes, the optic nerve is damaged. This is usually due to high eye pressure (also referred to as ocular hypertension) from too much aqueous fluid in the eye. Aqueous fluid is produced by the ciliary body, which is a part of the eye behind the iris. It drains through a part called the trabecular meshwork. If the ciliary body produces too much aqueous, or if the aqueous doesn’t drain fast enough through the trabecular meshwork, it can lead to high eye pressure. This usually results in the loss of peripheral vision. Four Types of Glaucoma and How They Occur Chronic or Open Angle Glaucoma. This is the most common type, which is caused when aqueous fluid drains too slowly and pressure builds up in the eye. It has no symptoms and typically occurs in people older than 40. As you age, your trabecular meshwork, which drains the fluid, doesn’t work as well. Normal Tension Glaucoma. Normal tension glaucoma is similar to open angle glaucoma, except you experience glaucoma despite normal levels of eye pressure. You might be sensitive to these normal levels, possibly because not enough blood goes to your optic nerve. Acute or Angle Closure Glaucoma. This type of glaucoma is rare, and also the most severe. If you are of Asian or American Indian descent, you are at higher risk. Angle closure glaucoma occurs when the drainage system in the eye becomes blocked. Symptoms can include (but are not limited to) severe headaches, nausea and eye pain. Secondary Glaucoma. Sometimes glaucoma is a byproduct of another eye condition or disease. For example, uveitis — an inflammation of the part of the eye called the uvea — can cause secondary glaucoma. Three Treatments to Help You Get Glaucoma under Control If glaucoma isn’t treated, it can lead to vision loss. While you won’t be able to reverse the damage done, you can prevent further vision loss. You have three treatment options: Eye drops. Eye drops can decrease eye pressure by helping the eye either drain aqueous fluid better or produce less fluid. Medications. Your doctor can prescribe medication. Some of these can get to be expensive. Glaucoma drugs are classified by their active ingredients, and have names such as prostaglandin analogs, beta blockers, alpha agonists, and carbonic anhydrase inhibitors. Because you might need more than one type of ingredient, combination drugs are available. Surgery. Laser treatment can lessen pressure in the eye. However, laser treatment is not permanent. You will probably eventually have to take medications. Non-surgery options are available, too. The most common is called trabeculectomy, which leaks fluid from the eye in a controlled manner. But it doesn’t stop there. Not only will you want to treat the glaucoma with one of these options, you’ll want to take action. Four Simple Ways You Can Manage Life with Glaucoma Get organized. If you’ve been diagnosed with glaucoma, chances are you’ll be taking a few medications. Learn what those medications are, what time you need to take them and how many times a day you need to take them. The more you can build this into your routine, the better your chances of preventing further vision loss Monitor the disease. The easiest way to prevent further vision loss is to monitor the disease. Those who are 40 or older can schedule an appointment for a dilated eye exam with your eye doctor. If you’ve already been diagnosed, keep in regular contact with your eye doctor. Check in with your eye doctor at least once a year. Let your doctor know about your medications. Regular checkups are important, not only with your eye doctor, but with all doctors. Make sure to communicate the types of medications you’ve been prescribed, as well as how they make you feel. For example, some medications can leave you fatigued. Let your doctors know, so the medications can help you rather than hurt. Know what you can and can’t do. If you have a successful surgery, you’ll have a little bump on the sclera (the white part of the eye) under the upper eyelid. This bump is called a bleb. Depending on how recent the surgery, you might want to avoid swimming in a pool, as exposure to the water could cause a bleb infection. Likewise, applying certain kinds of eye cosmetics can irritate the eye, causing problems. Ask your doctor what you can and can’t do, understanding you might have to make a few sacrifices. Glaucoma may not have a cure, but treatments can help. Organizations like Prevent Blindness have declared January National Glaucoma Awareness Month to educate the public on the disease, including risk factors and treatment options. Don’t let glaucoma sneak off with your sight!

Americans Want to See Their Dentist More, Survey Finds

by MikeMeehan 1/9/2017 1:14 PM

Americans want to see their dentist more. At least that’s according to this recent survey, the Adult Oral Health Survey, which sampled 1,025 Americans 18 years and older. The results found 41 percent of Americans don’t visit the dentist as often as they’d like. Among health practitioners listed, dentists ranked at the top. In fact, the second-place practitioner was 13 percentage points lower: dermatologists, at 28 percent. This might be good news, after a Gallup poll from 2014 indicated one-third of Americans hadn’t visited the dentist in the past year. Likewise, the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute reported most adults planned to visit the dentist in 2017 (77 percent), yet only a limited number had made the trip in 2015 (37 percent). Studies have shown a link between good oral health and overall well-being, as well as boosts in confidence. Both were indicated in The Adult Oral Health Survey. According to the survey, 79 percent of adults believe there is a connection between oral health and overall health. Adults who were extremely satisfied with their oral health rated their overall well-being as very good (48 percent), compared to those who were not satisfied (28 percent). And 63 percent reported good oral health helped them feel confident on a daily basis. This outranked contenders like having clear skin (56 percent) and being in shape (50 percent). Those who gave their oral health an “A” grade were 24 percent less likely to put the dentist at the top of the list of practitioners they wished to see more. Only 28 percent of adults who brush twice a day reported they didn’t see their dentist as much as they’d like, compared to 52 percent who brush less than twice a day. The Adult Oral Health Survey was conducted between December 16, 2015, and January 14, 2016, among a nationally representative sample, with a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.

How to Enjoy Hockey without Hurting Your Smile

by MikeMeehan 1/6/2017 9:36 AM

Any hockey fans out there? Earlier this week, the St. Louis Blues had a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks at Busch Stadium during the Winter Classic 2017. It was a big game for several reasons: The 2016-’17 season marks the National Hockey League’s 100th anniversary. The St. Louis Blues are celebrating their 50th anniversary. Busch Stadium has been around for 10 years. Not only can hockey be fun to watch, it can be fun to play. And while the sport comes with many rewards, it can be dangerous to your eyes and teeth. Are the Risks of Hockey Worth the Rewards? Some of the rewards of hockey include: It improves fitness. Hockey improves cardiovascular fitness, as well as bone and muscle strength. It can decrease stress. When you play hockey, dopamine is released in your brain. This can make you happier and more relaxed. It can help you sleep better. This is also due to dopamine in the brain. You can learn teamwork and communication skills. You play hockey on a team. To get the puck down the rink, you have to communicate nonverbally with your teammates. You can concentrate better. Hockey has shifts. A shift is the amount of time a player, line or defense pair is on the ice. Typically, a shift lasts a minute, which, when you’re trying to give it all you got, can require a lot of focus. By learning to focus even after you start to tire, you can stay up on your game. This focus can spill into other areas of your life. You can make quick decisions. Because hockey is such a fast-paced sport, you have to sharpen your reflexes. It can build confidence. After seeing the gains from the game, hockey can encourage you to pursue and achieve other goals. However, hockey is one of the most dangerous sports when it comes to teeth and eye safety. It’s a full-contact sport. Sticks are slapped at the ice. Pucks can travel to speeds as high as 60 mph. Opponents check one another into walls. Any of these can cause damage to teeth and eyes. In fact, this article from the National Hockey League newsroom says losing teeth is just a part of the game. Four Reasons Hockey Injuries Can Be Devastating Losing teeth may be a part of the game of hockey, but it shouldn’t be a part of the bigger game of life. Nor should eye injuries be a part of that game. Here’s why: Missing teeth can make it harder to chew foods. Teeth break down food for proper digestion. Better chewing can better nourish your body, as chewing produces more saliva. Saliva can prevent plaque from building up around teeth and can also aid in the digestion process. Missing teeth can make it harder to speak. Teeth aid in speech. If you’re missing teeth, your tongue might readjust, which can affect your speaking skills. Injuries to the eye can affect your vision. This may seem like an obvious thing to write, but consider it for a moment. Your eyes are a window to the world. With impaired sight, it could feel like your window has some annoying smudges. Damage to teeth and eyes can affect your appearance. When you smile, the first feature many people notice is your teeth. Teeth support the lips and face. Some people have reported their noses and upper lips sagging after losing their two front teeth. Likewise, some people claim eyes are the first feature we fall in love with. Damage to either could rob you of your hard-earned confidence. Three Pieces You Need to Protect Your Eyes and Teeth When you play the sport, yes, you want to play for the love of the game. But protecting your eyes and teeth should be No. 1. It’s ok, though. You have a few options: Always wear a face mask. This doesn’t just apply to goalies. A face mask can protect both your eyes and teeth, and is durable enough to stop a puck flying at 60 mph. Wear sports goggles. Sports goggles can offer added protection to the eyes where the cracks in the wire mesh of a face mask does not. Wear a mouth guard. A mouth guard can protect your mouth and jaw. Unfortunately, if a puck flies at your face at 60 mph, a tiny piece of plastic probably isn’t going to do much to save your tooth. Hence the importance of also wearing a face mask. However, the mouth guard isn’t completely useless. Without a mouth guard, the puck might cause far more extensive damage to your jaw. Hockey, like any other sport, does come with its enjoyable moments. But it can be dangerous. Get out, and enjoy the game. Just make sure to protect your eyes and teeth when you do!

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