January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, and of all awareness campaigns, senior care providers need to pay attention to this one. Glaucoma is the most common cause of avoidable blindness in the U.S., and more than 3 million Americans have it—yet half of those may not even realize it! With an aging population, researchers just expect that number to keep growing. But early diagnosis can help!
1. Glaucoma Symptoms?
Glaucoma has no symptoms in its early stages, which makes it hard to catch unless your senior care regimen includes a regular visit with the eye doctor. This is particularly alarming because a person with undiagnosed glaucoma can lose up to 40 percent of their sight before realizing there’s a problem. While glaucoma’s damage to the optic nerve can be slowed or stopped if diagnosed, damage already done cannot be reversed—not yet, anyway.
2. Risk Factors for Glaucoma
People of African, Hispanic and Asian descent carry a higher risk for developing glaucoma, as well as any senior over the age of 60. Diabetics and people with a family history of glaucoma also run a higher risk. If you are a caregiver for someone with these risk factors, urge them to see their eye doctor regularly so they can catch and treat the disease before more of their vision decreases.
3. How Glaucoma Damages Sight
Both types of glaucoma (angle-closure glaucoma and primary open-angle glaucoma) damage the optical nerve through increased pressure within the eye. Some other disease processes (like those of diabetes) can also cause extra pressure within the eye. Regardless of the cause, this excess pressure damages the optic nerve, which is responsible for carrying images from the eyes to the brain. Your eye doctor can measure eye pressures and detect damage to the optical nerve.
4. What the In-Home Care and Family Caregiver Can Do about Glaucoma
Schedule a regular eye exam for yourself or for the seniors in your family. The good news is that once glaucoma is diagnosed, there are several treatment options that can slow and prevent further vision loss. Depending on your individual situation, medications and/or surgery can help you preserve your remaining sight and prevent the disease from progressing.
Talk with your Home Helpers caregiver about glaucoma and how you can help preserve your sight today.