Facing Glaucoma: How to Manage Your Vision to the Best of Your Ability

The thought of experiencing glaucoma may be frightening, but it’s a lot more manageable than many realize.

Allergan Glaucoma Main Img 1000x750Photo: Shutterstock
The thought of experiencing glaucoma, a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve and leads to loss of vision, may be frightening, but it’s a lot more manageable than many realize. Thankfully science and research has allowed us to pinpoint the causes, diagnose it properly, and create management plans. Let’s take a look at some of the causes, and ways to manage glaucoma to the best of your ability.

Allergan Glaucoma Img2 1000x750Photo: Shutterstock

What is glaucoma?

To put it into perspective, it is estimated that 728,000 Canadians are impacted by glaucoma1. For those who experience living with glaucoma, all is not lost, it just takes being proactive about it to continue living a healthy life. In short, glaucoma causes damage to the optic nerve, usually due to high levels of pressure in the eyes. While it can lead to blindness, many forms of the condition move very gradually—which is why so many people live with it undiagnosed.2 When untreated, glaucoma can develop to the point of permanent loss of vision.3 This is why it’s vital to get regular eye exams, so it can be properly managed, to help reduce eye pressure which may in turn reduce the risk of further damage. One form of the condition, known as acute angle-closure glaucoma, can happen very suddenly and requires immediate medical assistance. Symptoms can include severe eye pain, nausea, vomiting and sudden blurred vision.4

Allergan Glaucoma Img3 1000x750Photo: Shutterstock

Who is at risk for glaucoma?

While those over the age of 60 are at the highest risk of developing glaucoma5, there are a few other components that can factor in, including a genetic inheritance6. Getting your pressure tested at your eye exams is of utmost importance, no matter what your age. Consistent examinations will ensure you’re always a step ahead of anything that may develop. Eye injuries that may occur, as well as some medical conditions and medications, such as corticosteroids, can increase the risk of developing glaucoma7. Those who experience living with high blood pressure, sickle cell anemia, diabetes and heart disease should be sure to get regular eye pressure exams as well. Your optometrist will also be able to tell you if you have thin corneas or are extremely nearsighted or farsighted, and it will be recommended that you continue to have regular exams to monitor the potential development of glaucoma.

Allergan Glaucoma Img4 1000x750Photo: Shutterstock

How can you prevent Glaucoma from developing further?

Again, all is not lost after you’ve been diagnosed with glaucoma. The most important thing is to get ahead of it before it develops further. In a recent survey by Leger with a 50+ audience, it was revealed that 45% of Canadians 50+ do not know glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness and that 42% of Canadians 50+ have not seen an optometrist. These numbers indicate that Canadians will benefit from proactivity. Having consistent comprehensive eye exams every six to twelve months over  65, every one to two years between 64 and 54, every one to three years between ages 55 and 41, and every two to four years under the age of 40, is the most significant way to help prevent glaucoma damage.8 If you’re at high risk, for any of the reasons mentioned above, your doctor will likely recommend you get screened with more frequency.

Allergan Glaucoma Img5 1000x750Photo: Shutterstock

In addition to monitoring your eyes with as much devotion as you do the rest of your body, some lifestyle changes may help prevent glaucoma from developing further. Wearing eye protection to prevent injury and exercising to reduce eye pressure are a few ways.9 Prescription medications are the most common treatment plans, and in some cases surgical procedures may be recommended as well. The reality is that once diagnosed with glaucoma, you’ll need eye care management for the rest of your life in order to maintain healthy eye pressure. While this may seem daunting, it’s important to face it before it gets worse. The good news is that medical intervention can help prevent the loss of vision significantly. And, there are plenty of resources available, such as Fighting Blindness Canada, that are educating and pushing science forward to make living with glaucoma easier. Like all other parts of your body, your eyes also require some extra TLC. It’s all about staying on top of your health, and taking the measures to preserve your vision for as long as possible.

1 Fighting Blindness Canada. The Cost of Vision Loss and Blindness in Canada 2020 Summary Report. Retrieved from https://www.fightingblindness.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/KG-EN-ACC-Cost-of-Vision-loss-and-Blindness-in-Canada-Final.pdf. Accessed November 2021.
2 Mayo Clinic. Glaucoma. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/glaucoma/symptoms-causes/syc-20372839. Accessed November 2021.
3 Mayo Clinic. Glaucoma. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/glaucoma/symptoms-causes/syc-20372839. Accessed November 2021.
4 Healthline. Glaucoma. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/glaucoma. Accessed November 2021.
5 Healthline. Glaucoma. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/glaucoma. Accessed November 2021.
6 Mayo Clinic. Glaucoma. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/glaucoma/symptoms-causes/syc-20372839. Accessed November 2021.
7 Healthline. Glaucoma. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/glaucoma. Accessed November 2021.
8 Glaucoma Research Foundation. What is Glaucoma. Retrieved from https://www.glaucoma.org/gleams/what-can-i-do-to-prevent-glaucoma.php. Accessed November 2021.
9 Mayo Clinic. Glaucoma. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/glaucoma/symptoms-causes/syc-20372839. Accessed November 2021.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada