Quality Home Health Care

What Every Senior Should Know About Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that cause progressive damage to the eye’s optic nerve. Older woman beginning to suffer from glaucomaThe optic nerve transmits images from the retina to the brain.
Blind spots start to develop in the field of vision if a significant number of nerve fibers are damaged. Most people don’t notice the blind spots until there’s significant damage. If left untreated, loss of vision may occur leading to permanent blindness.

Risk Factors of Glaucoma

Glaucoma often occurs in people over 40 years of age, although an infantile or congenital form of glaucoma exists.

Hispanics over 60 years of age, people with a family history of glaucoma, and people of African descent over age 40 are at a high risk of developing glaucoma. Other risk factors include nearsightedness (myopia), steroid use, a history of severe anemia or shock, thin cornea and using medications that increase pressure in the eyes.

Recent research findings at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center revealed that individuals with hypertension and diabetes may also have an increased risk of developing open-angle glaucoma. People with this form of glaucoma rarely become aware of the condition until significant loss of vision has occurred as it develops slowly and usually without any symptoms.

A rapid increase in pressure may result in an abrupt case of a less common type of glaucoma, acute angle-closure glaucoma. Immediate medical attention is crucial as severe loss of vision can occur within a short time. Its symptoms may include redness of the eye, blurred vision, seeing colored rings around lights, severe eye pain, and nausea.

Can Glaucoma Be Cured?

Glaucoma has no known cure, but if diagnosed and treated early, it can be controlled. Surgery or medication can slow or prevent further loss of vision. Treatment will depend on the severity and nature of each case. Regardless of the type of glaucoma, it’s important to go for regular eye examinations.

How Vision Loss Occurs

Glaucoma will usually occur in both eyes, but fluid pressure often starts to build in one eye. In most cases, side vision is affected first, so the change in vision may be so small that it’s difficult to notice. With time, central(direct) vision is also lost.

What to Expect During Glaucoma Examinations

Regular glaucoma check-ups should include two routine painless eye exams-ophthalmoscopy and tonometry. If the optic never looks unusual or eye pressure is not in the normal range, then additional glaucoma exams may be done.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing glaucoma can be tough. The most crucial factor is protecting your sight. Doctors look at several factors before making any decisions about treatment. If diagnosis and or treatment of your condition is particularly difficult, you may be referred to a glaucoma specialist.

Once detected, glaucoma usually requires professional long-term care. Keeping your eye pressure under control is critical. You must follow your treatment plan religiously to help control your eye pressure as this will prevent further damage to the optic nerve and prevent sight loss. Many people assume that glaucoma is cured when eye pressure has been lowered to safe levels via surgery or medication. Regular checkups are still needed even after medications or surgeries to control eye pressure.

Some people with glaucoma have low vision. This means they may have problems doing routine things even when using contact lenses or glasses. This may range from loss of the ability to see shades of the same color to reduced visual acuity. There are plenty of resources and products such as computer text enlargers, color lenses and magnifiers that help people with low vision.

Many elderly people don’t know that glaucoma may have no symptoms and are unaware of the importance of eye checkups. You can help by encouraging them to have their optic nerves and eye pressure checked regularly.

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Cataracts: You You Don’t Need to Suffer From Cloudy Vision

At some point in almost every one’s life he or she will have an eye problem.
Ordinarily, when we see things, we are able to focus because light passes through our pupil into the back of the eye lens into the retina. But if the lens becomes cloudy, this is a cataract. The light cannot go through the hazy lens, thus vision is impaired or dimmed. The cataract worsens gradually.

It is typically age related. About seventy percent of people over the age of seventy–five have or had cataracts. The lens is comprised of water and protein. As we age our eyes no longer retain the water as well and sometimes the protein becomes impacted and hardened.

There are a few exceptions of cataracts that are not age related. These form in unusual circumstances.  In particular:

  • Congenital cataracts in babies or children may be hereditary or caused by birth defects.
  • Chronic diseases or another type of eye surgery can sometimes cause cataracts.
  • Diabetes and steroid medications put patients at risk for cataracts.
  • Traumatic cataracts occur from a direct eye wound. It may take a long time for it to advance.
  • Persons who smoke, are obese, have high blood pressure, prolonged sunlight exposure, or a family history of cataracts suffer the chances of cataracts.
  • Sometimes there is no explanation.

Visiting the Eye Doctor

elderly man reading to his granddaughterAn ophthalmologist begins with dilating the pupil with eye drops. There is an examination with a slit–lamp to see the cornea, iris and lens, as well as the space between the iris and lens. This specialized microscope allows the doctor to see details and check for anomalies. The doctor will use an opthalmoscope for the retinal exam while the pupil is dilated to look for cataracts, glaucoma and any concerns with the optic nerve or retina. These are in addition to the normal vision acuity test in which the patients eyes are evaluated in seeing various letters of different sizes.

If you are diagnosed with cataracts there are some things you can if you wish to avoid surgery. For those whose vision is not too bad, a change in eye glass prescription may help.

  • If you are older than 65, have an eye exam every year.
  • Wear a hat and use sunglasses that block 99% UV rays.
  • Do not smoke.
  • Get healthy, see your family physician and follow his directions.
  • If when you drive after dark you see halos or have blurred vision, limit night driving.
  • Use a magnifying glass to read if you need it.
  • Turn up the lighting or use brighter bulbs.
  • Do not purchase eye drops claiming to cure cataracts, there is no such thing.

When the feeling of “looking through a dirty window” becomes too annoying, see an ophthalmologist. The cataract is treatable with surgery to remove it. If it changes the way you live, work or drive, you will probably opt for the simple surgery. Before surgery, there are a few tests to go through. The eye is measured and the curve of the cornea will be calculated in order to select the right lens.

Lasik or other eye related surgery does not prevent having cataract surgery, however the surgeon needs to know about it. The surgeon should be informed of all medications, including sleep aids and supplements, the patient is taking. There are a few medications that can interfere with the eye healing. Prescription eye drops may be recommended for a few days before surgery to protect the patient from infections.

The cataract surgery is swift and painless. The technical name is phacoemulsification. A minuscule incision is performed at the side of the cornea, the front of the eye. Very high–frequency ultrasound breaks the cataract and it is suctioned away. The clouded lens is replaced with an intraocular lens, known as the IOL. The artificial clear lens is constructed of plastic, acrylic or silicone. Light will be able to pass through now so vision will be clear in a few days. The doctor will place a protective shield over the eye and give the patient wraparound sunglasses. The patient will be asked to rest in the recovery area for a short time. Every patient who has this surgery must have a driver to take him or her home, none are allowed to drive.

Recovery From Cataract Surgery

There are only a few short rules to recovery, for at least a week:

  • Do not touch or rub the eye.
  • Wear the shield all the time.
  • Wear the wraparound sunglasses in bright light.
  • Avoid bending, lifting or strenuous exercise.
  • Do not allow water or dirt to get into the eye.

There may be blurry vision for a while, this is normal. If pain occurs the doctor should be called immediately.

Dangers of Cataract Surgery

Every surgery has risks, cataract surgery is no different. Here are some dangers cataract surgery pose:

  • Infection
  • InfectionSwelling of the cornea or retina
  • Swelling of the cornea or retinaRetinal detachment
  • Retinal detachment
  • Glaucoma
  • Bleeding inside the eye

In some cases Medicare or private insurance may pay all or most of cataract surgery. It is best to check with the surgeon with all questions about the procedure and the expenses before making plans.

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