As many seniors continue to age, they start to find that certain things just don't work as well as they used to. Hearing can start to fade, joints may not work as well as they used to and for many, their eyesight also becomes less clear. There are some situations where eyesight can worsen with age, but many times there is a more serious issue forming, and for many seniors this means glaucoma.
Glaucoma has become an increasingly common ailment in the senior community, so much so that it has been disregarded by some as "normal" and just "part of aging." However, glaucoma is so much more serious than just "aging eyes" glaucoma is a very serious ailment and one that all seniors and their caregivers need to lookout for.So, what is glaucoma? It is a group of different diseases that can damage the optic nerve in the eye. This condition is so serious it can cause permanent vision loss and even complete blindness. It is one of the most preventable causes of vision loss and one of the leading causes of legal blindness today. While it tends to be genetic, this condition is most common in seniors age 60 and over.
One of the most terrifying things about glaucoma is that it is typically gradual and painless. The condition occurs when the valve that regulates liquid in the eye becomes damaged, which then damages the optic nerve; this eventually increases pressure in the eye, which leads to serious damage. Typically, vision seems completely normal and the entire process is painless, which is why glaucoma is so serious. Some people don't notice the changes in their eye or their vision while this is happening, which is why it is so important that caregivers take their senior loved ones to an eye doctor regularly for checkups so they can make sure there aren't any undetected glaucoma issues forming.
Types of Glaucoma
One of the biggest misconceptions about glaucoma is that there is only one type of this condition. There are several types of glaucoma, all of which can impact seniors and their eyesight. Some of these types of glaucoma that are most likely to impact seniors are:
Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma. Approximately 90% of all glaucoma cases are open-angle. This type of glaucoma is caused by clogging in the drainage canals of the eyes. This is a slow and graduate process that ultimately leads to increased eye pressure. This lifelong condition leads to a wide and open angle between the cornea and the iris of the eye.
Like most glaucoma cases, the symptoms and the developing damage are not particularly noticeable or painful. This type of glaucoma is also known as "primary glaucoma" or "chronic glaucoma."
Although it is less common than open-angle glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma is still a very serious type of glaucoma and one that can quickly impact a person's vision. This type of glaucoma is caused again by a blocked drainage canal, but it results in a quick and sudden rise in intraocular pressure. This results in a closed or small angle between the iris and the cornea. Unlike open-angle glaucoma, it develops very quickly, and it comes with noticeable symptoms such as pain and noticeable vision loss. This type of glaucoma, also called "acute glaucoma" requires immediate medical attention.
Normal-tension glaucoma, also known as low-tension or normal-pressure, occurs when the optic nerve of the eye is damaged. Unlike most other types of glaucoma, it occurs even though the eye pressure isn't particularly high. This is one of the most perplexing types of glaucoma because it is still not known how or why the optic nerve becomes so damaged when pressure levels are relatively normal. It is relatively rare, but still able to impact seniors.
There are also some cases when glaucoma can develop due to other conditions. Secondary glaucoma can often be associated with eye surgery, cataracts, eye injuries, or tumors. There is also neovascular glaucoma, which can be linked to diabetes.
Helping Your Loved One Check for Glaucoma
There is no cure for glaucoma. In fact, the only way to preserve your vision if you do have this condition is to diagnose the issue early on. There are medications and surgery that can stop further vision loss and help preserve existing vision.
There are not many symptoms of glaucoma, and typically they include slight vision loss. Many seniors unfortunately, often feel as those these small changes are just part of aging and normal changes when in all reality, they are quite serious. One of the most common vision changes that seniors with glaucoma tend to have is losing their peripheral or side vision.
Seniors who start to turn their heads to the side to see in their peripherals may be dealing with the early stages of glaucoma. Even a symptom as small as this needs to be checked by a professional immediately.
There are more than 120,000 Americans who are completely blind from Glaucoma, and African Americans are up to 8 times as likely to suffer from glaucoma-related blindness than Caucasians. Seniors, those with diabetes and those who are severely nearsighted, are also at a higher risk of developing glaucoma-related blindness. While these groups are more likely to develop the disease, all aging adults are at risk for glaucoma.
If you or a senior loved one you know is not getting regular glaucoma checks, it is time to start. There are more than 3 million Americans today that have this serious vision disease, yet only about half know they have this condition. If left undiagnosed and untreated, these individuals may ultimately lose their vision. Glaucoma tests are simple and easy and can be done by an ophthalmologist. A simple test like this can help any senior preserve their vision and keep their eyes healthy and sharp.