Although glaucoma has become a very common disease, the severity of its effects is often misunderstood or taken lightly. This leads to the condition going unchecked in many individuals, and ultimately a significant loss of vision and even blindness. In Canada alone, over 250,000 people suffer from chronic open-angle glaucoma, and if left without proper treatment, their vision could deteriorate very quickly. That brings us to another cause for concern: glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in human beings, as per the World Health Organization (WHO).
To help prevent this eye disease from becoming an epidemic of blindness, Canada observes National Glaucoma Awareness Month every January. During the month, health organizations, government bodies, and especially optometry professionals make it a point to educate people about glaucoma and even go as far as to offer free or subsidized eye exams.
At Oxford Optometry, we believe it is our duty as eye care experts to create as much awareness about this disease as possible. To do this, in as much detail as possible, we’ve explained below what glaucoma is, whom it affects, how to reduce your chances of getting it, and how to identify it before it’s too late.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that slowly rob you of your sight without even a warning. In some cases, you could lose 40% of your vision without noticing, which is why this disease is often called “the sneak thief of sight.”
Usually, glaucoma is known to affect middle-aged and elderly individuals. However, it can also be found in younger people. People of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent are at a higher risk of developing the disease. But, if you suffer from severe myopia or nearsightedness or have glaucoma diagnosis in your family, you may be at risk of developing this disease.
Glaucoma is caused by damage to the optic nerve. It isn’t clear as to how this occurs, but research shows that pressure within the eye caused by the build-up of excess fluids in the eye can impair the optic nerve severely. Over time, this weakens your sight and ultimately leads to blindness.
There are various versions of glaucoma found today, but the two main types are:
a. Primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), and
b. Angle-closure glaucoma
These forms of glaucoma are marked by an increase in intraocular pressure (IOP) or pressure inside the eye. If the optic nerve damage has occurred despite a normal IOP, it is called normal tension glaucoma. There’s also secondary glaucoma, which may arise when another disease causes or contributes to increased eye pressure. Thus, resulting in optic nerve damage and vision loss.
How to prevent and treat glaucoma?
At present, there is no cure for glaucoma, but with medication and surgery, we can slow down and even prevent vision loss. The kind of treatment you need will depend on the type of glaucoma you have and how early it was detected. As much as possible, try to attend regular eye exams with your optometrist. As there are no virtual symptoms that you can notice, having a trained professional perform a comprehensive eye exam becomes crucial.
Besides getting your eyes checked, according to modern research, there are some activities that you can perform to reduce your odds of developing glaucoma. They include:
a. High intensity exercise
A recent study found that increasing exercise intensity can decrease the odds of glaucoma. It claims that performing moderate to vigorous activity versus doing no activity can reduce glaucoma odds by 95%. Similarly, standing or walking compared to sitting all day can decrease glaucoma odds by 58%.
b. Green leafy vegetables
According to another study, it was found that consuming more leafy vegetables can reduce the risk of developing glaucoma by 20% to 30%. It is believed that the nitrates in green vegetables can be converted by the body to nitric oxide, which can improve blood flow and help regulate pressure inside the eye.
c. Sleeping well
Another study showed that poor sleeping patterns and abnormal sleep durations could increase the risk of developing glaucoma. To be on the safer side, it is vital to maintain healthy sleeping habits.
How can you create awareness?
There’s a lot you can do to build awareness about glaucoma. For starters, you can volunteer with your community health clinic or city department, hosting awareness events about the disease. Doing this will help you educate yourself and others while also making friends with people with the same condition. Together, you can then build a support group. Doing research and sharing it with your friends and family is another way to create awareness. Finally, contributing to medical research for glaucoma will allow scientists and doctors to learn more about the disease, which can result in better understanding, treatments, and maybe even a cure.
To learn more about how you can do your part to create awareness about glaucoma or find relief from it, reach out to us at Oxford Optometry. We are optometrists or eye doctors in Woodstock, ON, catering to a broad range of needs like comprehensive eye and vision exams for all ages, co-management of LASIK eye surgery, hard-to-fit contact lenses, Ortho-K corneal reshaping technology, computer vision solutions, sports vision solutions and more. Our vision care team is selected based on experience, professional demeanor, and dedication to providing personalized care. They do their best to offer you a comfortable and satisfying experience. At the same time, we make sure to provide you with flexible appointments, payments, and insurance procedures.