5 Things to Know About Glaucoma

by MikeMeehan 1/11/2018 10:20 AM

Glaucoma is an eye disease that can lead to permanent vision loss. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), it’s one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. And according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, of the 60 million people in the world that have glaucoma, an estimated half of those people don’t know they have it. With January as Glaucoma Awareness Month, here are five things to learn about the disease. Use this information as a way to start your research and develop knowledge on how this disease can affect you and your family.  Glaucoma usually has no symptoms The symptoms of glaucoma can vary. What’s frightening is that you could have glaucoma without knowing; it can develop slowly and without pain. There could be no warning signs until you start to notice a loss in your vision. But as much as 40% of your vision can be lost without you noticing. With some forms of the disease, the condition could happen quickly, and there could be symptoms like blurred vision and halos around lights. Glaucoma can be detected with a comprehensive eye exam While it’s scary to think that glaucoma can develop without you realizing, remember this disease can be detected with a comprehensive eye exam from your eye doctor. With early detection, there is treatment available that can control the disease and reduce the risk of vision loss. Regular eye exams are so important for detection of this disease because any vision loss from glaucoma is irreversible. People over the age of 60 are at high risk If you’re over the age of 60, you have a higher risk of developing glaucoma. Other factors can increase your risk, so talk with your eye doctor and discuss these variables. The most common forms of glaucoma affect older people, but the disease can still affect all age groups. If you have a high risk of glaucoma, it’s extremely important to get a comprehensive eye exam with your eye doctor every one to two years. Family history increases your risk According to the AOA, the exact cause of glaucoma is not known. We do know that the condition is “usually associated with an increase in the fluid pressure inside the eye.” We also know that it’s hereditary in some families. Read more about this and other risk factors. There are different types of glaucoma While we often might just use the general term glaucoma when referring to it, there are different forms of the disease. Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common. You can learn more about the different types of glaucoma and how they’re different on the Glaucoma Research Foundation website. Now, with these five things to know about glaucoma, consider your vision health, talk to your family, and make an eye doctor appointment. 

The Risks that Poor Oral Health Might Share with Open Angle Glaucoma

by MikeMeehan 1/26/2017 2:21 PM

Poor oral health reaches far beyond the mouth. We’ve written about how it can make it harder for a person with diabetes to control their blood sugar. It can also cause respiratory infections and contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. It might also be bad on the eyes. Guilty by Association: The Link between Poor Oral Health and Open Angle Glaucoma A recent study suggests poor oral health could signify an increased risk of open angle glaucoma. Open angle glaucoma—sometimes referred to as primary open angle glaucoma or POAG — is the most common type. It is caused when aqueous fluid drains too slowly from a part of the eye called the trabecular meshwork. As a result, pressure builds up in the eye. Left untreated for too long, it can lead to blindness. The Ophthalmology Times, an eye care section of The Modern Medicine Network, recently reported a link between periodontal disease and open angle glaucoma. According to the article, researchers analyzed 26 years’ worth of data, categorizing participants as either having good or poor oral health. Then they compared the rates of open angle glaucoma in the two groups. Their findings: Participants who had lost one tooth or more had a 45 percent higher chance of open angle glaucoma than those who had not lost a tooth. Likewise, participants who had presented with periodontal disease and had lost one tooth or more in the past two years had an 85 percent higher chance of open angle glaucoma. The Research Is In: The Problems the Two Might Have in Common The association, according to the researchers, could be due to impaired blood flow and endothelial dysfunction. Impaired blood flow. Blood flow supplies your gums and eyes with nutrients and oxygen, which your gums and eyes need. Impaired blood flow makes it harder for the gums to fight infection. It can also affect the cornea, the part of your eye that refracts light and thus helps you see. Endothelial dysfunction. Aside from being a 10-dollar word, the word endothelial refers to your blood and lymphatic vessels. These vessels constrict or dilate. When they constrict, blood pressure increases, and when they dilate, blood pressure decreases. Endothelial dysfunction refers to an imbalance between constriction and dilation. Gum inflammation has been linked to this imbalance, and an imbalance of blood flow can put more pressure on the eyes. Four Habits that Will Help You Effectively Prevent Gum Disease According to the poor oral health/open angle glaucoma study, more work needs to be done to verify whether an association exists. Still, it’s always a good idea to maintain good oral health. To prevent gum disease, build these four habits into your routine: 1.     Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated can rinse away food particles that have stuck around, and can ensure proper saliva production. If you’re on several types of medication, you’ll want to keep the latter in mind, as the medications might dry out your mouth. Pro-tip: Drink tap water. Tap water contains fluoride, which strengthens enamel and can protect your teeth against plaque and other malignant bacteria. 2.     Eat healthy. Cut out sugar and white flour from your diet. Replace these with fruits and vegetables like pears, apples, carrots and celery, which can stimulate the gums or at least prevent them from receding. Foods rich in protein like cheese and nuts can restore proper pH levels in your mouth. 3.     Brush twice a day and floss daily. This is, of course, a routine everyone should have. We’ve written about best practices for brushing and flossing. 4.     Visit your dentist. Schedule at least two checkups a year with your dentist. Communicate the kinds of medication you’re taking, and any issues with your gums and teeth. Three Useful Steps to Treat Glaucoma If you have glaucoma, you can follow these steps: 1.     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. 2.     Monitor the disease. The easiest way to prevent further vision loss is to monitor the disease. Schedule an appointment for a dilated eye exam if you’re 40 or older. 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. 3.     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. Open angle glaucoma is dangerous. It doesn’t come with any symptoms, except for slow vision loss, and it doesn’t have a cure. But if you catch it early enough, treatments can help. That’s why organizations like Prevent Blindness have worked to raise awareness by declaring January National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Practicing good oral health could be one easy way to start preventing the disease.  

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!

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