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Health and Fitness News

Your Eyes, Under Pressure

Glaucoma can lead to blindness. Have you had your eyes checked lately?

The thought of blindness is a frightening thing. Without your vision you’d be lost in darkness. But if glaucoma goes untreated, it can lead to permanent blindness. One of the most dangerous aspects of glaucoma is that early stages of the disease often have no symptoms. It is so sneaky that an estimated 50 percent of the people with glaucoma don’t even know it. This is why regular visits to your optometrist are so important. Catching the disease in its early stages is your best chance at preventing vision loss.

What is glaucoma, how can you recognize it setting in, how is it best treated, and can it be prevented? Keep reading and see for yourself.

Pressure Inside the Eye

Glaucoma results from damage to the optic nerve (the bundle of nerve fibers connecting the eye to the brain) and can occur in one eye or both. Most cases of glaucoma are caused by abnormal amounts of pressure in the eye from a buildup of fluid, but this isn’t always the case. Glaucoma can also develop when the pressure inside the eye is normal. Sometimes you can have increased pressure, but no glaucoma. It depends on the individual.

There are several types of glaucoma, but all types fall into one of two categories: open-angle glaucoma and narrow-angle glaucoma. The angle refers to the direction fluid drains out of the eye. The rate fluid drains and the amount of fluid able to drain determine the pressure in your eye and your risk of glaucoma.

The Silent Thief of Sight

Because it often has no early symptoms, glaucoma is known as the “silent thief of sight.” By the time the disease is detected, damage to the optic nerve has already occurred and the resulting vision loss is irreversible.

As glaucoma progresses, you’ll gradually lose your peripheral vision. You may not see things to the side of your eye initially. As the disease progresses, it will be like you’re looking through a tunnel. Left untreated, vision slowly diminishes until none is left.

Get Regular Eye Exams

Early glaucoma detection is just one reason why you need regular comprehensive dilated eye exams. Through a series of tests, your optometrist is able to measure your sight, peripheral vision, and the pressure in your eye. After dilation, the doctor can examine the back of your eye and the optic nerve for damage or other problems.

Early Treatment Is Key

The sooner you receive treatment for glaucoma, the less vision you’ll lose. The most common initial treatment is medication, either in pill form or eye drops. The main goal of this medication is to reduce pressure in the eye. Laser trabeculoplasty is a less-invasive type of surgery that helps extra fluid drain out of your eye. Conventional surgery may also be used to treat glaucoma if medications and laser surgery aren’t effective.

Reduce Your Risk

The best way to protect against glaucoma is to get regular eye exams. Starting at age 40, make an appointment to see an optometrist every four years. After the age of 65, get an eye exam every two years. If glaucoma runs in your family, you may need to be screened more frequently.

Besides getting regular eye exams, living a healthy lifestyle is the best way to lower your chances of developing glaucoma. Don’t smoke, eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, and stay active. The pressure in your eyes is largely determined by the fitness of your cardiovascular system, so make exercise a part of your daily routine.