Get-hooked January 27, 2021
#GlaucomaAwarenessMonth – Do’s & Don’ts of Treatment
Glaucoma is the leading cause of vision loss among Americans, particularly people over the age of 40. There is no cure for this condition but there are many things one should do and should not do to keep the condition from worsening.
January is marked as Glaucoma Awareness Month. This related eye disease, which is age-related, affects over three million Americans, mainly over the age of 40.
Glaucoma damages the optic nerve in the eye. This is the nerve that sends images to the brain. It’s often linked to a build-up of pressure inside the eye called intraocular pressure. The condition gets worse over time and if left untreated can cause permanent vision loss. People with glaucoma who follow their treatment plan and have regular eye check-ups can keep their vision.
Tips for Living with Glaucoma
Glaucoma is a lifelong condition and needs continual follow-up with your eye doctor. There are other things you can do to help keep your eyes healthy.
Here are do’s and don’ts when you have glaucoma.
- Exercise regularly – Regular exercise helps reduce eye pressure and keep blood flowing to the nerves in your eye. But check with your doctor about the exercise program as some activities like weight lifting can raise pressure.
“Do not hold your breath when lifting heavy weights”, advises Dr Tania Lamba, glaucoma specialist at the DC Veterans Affair Medical Center and Clinical Assistant Professor at the George Washington University. “If you have glaucoma it can cause the eye pressure to increase”.
- Healthy diet – A healthy, well-rounded diet helps keep the body and eyes healthy. Eat food rich in nutrients like dark, leafy greens for instance.
- Don’t miss your medications – Ensure you take your eye drops or medicines as directed by the doctor. Being careless about your medication can make the condition worse. Dr Lamba advises gently closing the eyes for one to two minutes after putting in the eye drops and waiting five minutes between drops if you are using many drops at the same time. Sharing eye drops with other people is also strictly a no-no. “There are many different types of glaucoma eye drops!”, she warns. Another reason to not share is to avoid cross infection from the medication bottle”.
“Do take your drops every day and as close to “on time” as possible. They only work to lower your eye pressure when you get them into your eye”, cautions Dr Jullia A. Rosdahl, MD PhD, a glaucoma specialist at Duke Eye Center in Durham, North Carolina.
- Don’t smoke – Smoking raises blood pressure and eye inflammation. This increases your chances of getting diabetes and cataracts – both of which are risk factors for glaucoma.
- Limit intake of caffeine. – Control the amount of soda, coffee, and tea you drink as too much caffeine can raise eye pressure.
- Elevate your head – Using a wedge pillow while sleeping so that your head is raised a little can help lower eye pressure when you sleep. Dr Rosdahl recommends the use of a 30-degree wedge pillow especially for people with advanced glaucoma.
- Drink fluids slowly – Sip your beverages through the day as drinking too much at once can strain the eyes.
- Regular eye check-ups – Don’t miss out on regular eye exams. It is important to get regular checks to make sure the glaucoma is stable”, says Dr Lamba. “You may not know if the glaucoma is getting worse as the changes are usually slow and painless”.
- Protect the eyes – Wear goggles while swimming and replace your makeup often. Always wear sunglasses outside especially in summer.
- Be mindful with yoga – Certain yoga positions are to be avoided. These include head-down moves that put your heart above your eye. These can raise your eye pressure. Avoid poses like downward-facing dog, standing forward bend, plow, and poses that involve putting your legs up on the wall.
- Avoid medical marijuana – This is not recommended for glaucoma. “We have better treatment options that we can monitor and that are more predictable”, says Dr Lamba. “With marijuana we cannot predict the outcomes and it causes other undesirable side effects”.
You cannot prevent glaucoma so getting regular eye exams in critical. If you are over the age of 40 and have a family history of glaucoma, you must get yourself checked regularly. Do check with other family members if they have been screened for glaucoma as glaucoma can run in families.
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