Early Testing & Diagnosis Help Seniors Retain Their Eyesight
More than 2.2 million Americans, and over 60 million people worldwide, have glaucoma, and experts estimate that half of the people who have glaucoma don’t even know they’re afflicted. The Glaucoma Research Foundation reports that glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness. While glaucoma can impact people of any age, the risk increases as we age. People over 70 are three to eight times more likely to develop some forms of glaucoma than their younger counterparts.
Glaucoma, combined with other age-related vision issues, could lead to an epidemic of blindness affecting seniors. Regular eye examinations are essential to preserve vision, especially for seniors and others in high-risk groups.
Glaucoma is the overarching term for a group of conditions that occur when the optic nerve is damaged, which in turn affects the quality of your vision. There is a buildup of pressure inside the eye, and that pressure damages the optic nerve—the main transmitter of information from the eye to the brain. The optic nerve rests at the back of the eyeball.
While medical leaders recommend an annual exam with baseline exams after age 40, some populations need to stay extra vigilant about their eye health:
The elderly: Specifically, those above the age of 60. The elderly are at a greater risk largely because of their exposure to potential eye trauma and other health maladies that can be indirectly related to the development of glaucoma. Seniors are also most likely to develop open-angle glaucoma, a slowly-progressing form of the disease with no early warning signs or symptoms.
Race: Certain races—like African-Americans and Hispanics/Latinos—run a greater risk of developing glaucoma than others for reasons that can’t quite be explained. It’s also been shown that these races are also at risk earlier in life, sometimes as early as 40.
Previous eye injury: Trauma to the eye earlier in life can damage parts of the eye, and the effects may not show up until years later. Corneas and irises could be shifted from previous trauma, causing a closure of the angle that needs to be open for fluid to flow through the eye.
Corneal thickness: The thickness of the cornea can be a risk factor for developing glaucoma. In a study of more than 1,500 participants conducted in the early 2000s, researchers found that those with corneas thinner than 555 microns (about average) and high eye pressure were six times as likely to develop open-angle glaucoma than those with the same eye pressure and corneas thicker than 580 microns.
Diabetes/heart problems: Heart health issues like low and high blood pressure and diabetes can play a role in increasing the chance of developing glaucoma. Knowing health issues like these can help in the treatment process, as well, so doctors can treat both, say, low blood pressure negatively affecting the optic nerve and the pressure inside the eye.
Family history: For people with a family history of glaucoma, the chances of developing the disease are increased, as all the intangibles related to glaucoma (diabetes, heart problems, corneal thickness) can be passed down.
While currently there is no cure for glaucoma, medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. The appropriate treatment depends upon the type of glaucoma affecting the person. Early detection is vital to stopping the progress of the disease.
Medicare covers screenings and annual tests for high-risk seniors and low-income assistance is available. For further information and to help evaluate a senior’s risk, visit glaucomafoundation.org.
Medical conditions, including vision loss, are important factors to consider when trying to find the right senior living solution for an aging person. That’s why Oasis Senior Advisors take the time to get to know our clients and provide personalized one-on-one service. Contact us at 888-455-5838—one call can provide you with many solutions to the issues that seniors, families, and caregivers face every day.