January is glaucoma awareness month. Did you know that glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the United States? Early detection is key to controlling the disease and preventing severe vision loss.
More than three million Americans are living with glaucoma, most of whom are aged 40 and older. Glaucoma has few symptoms in the early stages, making awareness crucial. There is no cure for glaucoma — prevention and early detection are the best ways to protect your vision. Because glaucoma is incurable, you need to know how to reduce your risk and keep your eyes healthy.
At McDonald Eye Care Associates, our expert optometrists put together the following information to help you understand more about this sight-robbing disease.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve of your eye. Elevated eye pressure is a major risk factor. Glaucoma usually occurs when fluid builds up in the front part of the eye. The excess fluid raises the pressure in your eye, causing damage to the optic nerve.
Primary open-angle is the most common type of glaucoma we see at McDonald Eye Care Associates. It occurs gradually when fluid in the eye fails to drain properly, causing pressure to build. Most patients experience no symptoms in the beginning.
Angle-closure glaucoma is less common. It happens when your iris is too close to the drainage angle in your eye. As a result, the drainage becomes blocked and pressure increases. As with open-angle glaucoma, there are often no symptoms at first.
Glaucoma risk factors
While glaucoma mostly affects seniors, anyone can develop glaucoma. Some people are more at risk than others. Glaucoma risk factors include:
- Being of African American or Hispanic descent
- Eye injury
- Thin corneas
- Elevated eye pressure
- Family history of glaucoma
Get regular eye exams
Early diagnosis and treatment are keys to preventing glaucoma. We recommend that you get tested yearly after the age of 35 if you have risk factors for developing glaucoma.
Glaucoma medication reduces the pressure in your eye and helps to slow the progression of the disease. If you’re diagnosed with glaucoma and it’s caught early, glaucoma medication can protect your vision.
At McDonald Eye Care Associates, we can perform a complete eye exam, which includes checking for glaucoma. We check the pressure in your eye, which is the most important risk factor for glaucoma. We may also check the thickness of your cornea and perform an angle test. Thin corneas can contribute to increased eye pressure.
Fight glaucoma with diet
A healthy diet plays a role in staving off a host of chronic diseases, especially as you age, and glaucoma is no exception. Eating these glaucoma-fighting foods can lower your risk.
Spinach, kale, and other leafy greens are rich in two powerful antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin. Both nutrients are found in high concentration in your eyes, and eating a diet rich in leafy greens is shown to reduce the chances of developing glaucoma.
Nuts and fish
Nuts and fish are rich in vitamin E, another nutrient known to protect the eyes. Vitamin E refers to a group of compounds that act as strong antioxidants. Getting enough vitamin E helps protect your eyes from cellular damage.
Foods rich in zinc
Zinc is a trace mineral with multiple influences on health. In addition to its vital role in normal cell growth and a strong immune system, zinc may help protect the optic nerve. Your optic nerve contains a significant amount of zinc. It may help to protect and regenerate the nerve cells in your eyes.
Meat and shellfish are rich sources of zinc. Other zinc-containing foods include beans, nuts, eggs, and dairy.
Regular exercise is not only important for good health; it can lower eye pressure, a major factor in developing glaucoma. Engaging in regular, moderate physical exercise most days a week is beneficial. If you’re not used to exercising, you can start by walking or jogging.
Before starting any exercise program, discuss it with your primary physician first. Any exercise plan must be tailored to your specific needs and take into account your health status and conditions such as arthritis.
Serving Lakeview, Minnesota, and surrounding areas, the optometrists at McDonald Eye Care Associates are dedicated to providing you with the highest level of eye care. For all of your eye care needs, call to schedule an appointment or book online today.