According to Glaucoma NZ, it is estimated that 91,000 Kiwis have glaucoma, but what is more alarming is that only half of them know it. Therefore, without diagnosis and treatment, there are 45,500 people around the country who could lose their sight.
Since glaucoma is the second most common cause of blindness in the western world (and the second leading cause of blindness worldwide after cataracts), we thought we would spread awareness about the importance of regular eye checks and share these 6 tips on how to reduce the risk of glaucoma vision loss.
How to Prevent Glaucoma
Currently, the best form of prevention against significant glaucoma vision damage are regular eye exams. The following 6 steps can help reduce the risk of developing glaucoma and can help identify the early signs of glaucoma to limit your vision loss.
1. Have regular eye care
Regular comprehensive eye exams can help detect glaucoma in its early stages before irreversible damage occurs. You may need more frequent screening if you're at high risk of glaucoma and/or if glaucoma runs in your family history. To find out how often you should have an eye exam, it is best to ask your doctor for a suitable screening schedule for you. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends routine eye examinations:
- before age 40, if there are any problems
- from age 40 to age 50, every four years
- from age 50 to 60, every three years
- after age 60, every 2 years
2. Be aware of your family's eye health history
The most common type of glaucoma, primary open-angle glaucoma, tends to run in families. If members of your immediate family have glaucoma, you are at about a 5 times higher risk compared to those without a family history of glaucoma. Therefore, if you have a family history of glaucoma you may require more frequent screening.
3. Exercise safely
Since aerobic exercise is known to lower intraocular pressure (IOP), regular, moderate exercise may help prevent glaucoma. Since IOP can be lowered by exercise that raises the pulse just 20-25%, you don't have to be a marathon runner to lower your eye pressure — often, a brisk 20-minute walk just 4 times a week is usually adequate.
4. Take prescribed eye drops regularly
Glaucoma eye drops can significantly reduce the risk of glaucoma by lowering your high eye pressure. To be effective, prescribed eye drops must be used as directed by your doctor even if you have no current symptoms.
5. Wear eye protection
Serious eye injuries that "bruise" the eye (called blunt trauma) and other injuries that penetrate the eye can lead to glaucoma. When using power tools or playing certain sports involving small balls and high-speed rackets such as squash, ping-pong, tennis and paintball, be sure to wear eye protection glasses.
6. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
To lower the risk of developing glaucoma, we recommend that you maintain a healthy lifestyle. This includes keeping your weight in a healthy range, don't smoke, exercise regularly, have a healthy balanced diet, keep your blood pressure at a normal level. Staying fit and well ensures better blood flow to protect the optic nerve against glaucoma damage.
While it may not be possible to prevent glaucoma entirely, following these 6 steps can help keep your eyes healthy into your senior years. If you notice any changes in your vision, make sure that you see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible to treat your glaucoma and stop your eyesight from worsening. To learn more about glaucoma visit: https://www.aucklandeye.co.nz/eye-conditions/glaucoma/