World Glaucoma Week: Glaucoma in the Ageing Population
As you get older your likelihood of developing Glaucoma significantly increases, particularly for people over the age of 60. Unfortunately, Glaucoma goes undiagnosed all too often, making it the leading cause of blindness among the aged population.
Older people often overlook eye health, especially when there can be a whole range of other issues occurring at the same time. As the symptoms of Glaucoma aren’t obvious at first it’s even more typical for an eye examination to be delayed.
World Glaucoma Week is an initiative formed with the World Glaucoma Association and the World Glaucoma Patient Association to create public awareness about Glaucoma. This awareness week be sure to take the time to look after your eye health and book yourself in for an eye examination. Early detection is key to treating the symptoms of Glaucoma.
If your loved one is in care or receiving aged care support services, be sure to ask when they last had an eye examination, especially if you notice that they’re having difficulty with their vision.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases whereby the optic nerve is damaged, causing a loss of vision. Many Australians live with Glaucoma and often they don’t even know that they have it, because there are usually no warning signs at early stages of the disease. It gradually progresses and at first, loss to your peripheral vision may be the first sign. Although it’s more common among seniors, it can develop at any age.
Has anyone in your family been diagnosed with Glaucoma? If you’re unsure, it’s a good idea to ask around the family, especially if you’re having any troubles with your vision. Often we leave it too late to obtain an extensive health history from our parents, and then as we get older and our bodies stop working the same as they once did. It’s at that time that we think “I wonder if Mum or Dad ever experienced that issue?”
Family history and age are the main risk factors for developing Glaucoma. Other risk factors include the following:
- African or Asian descent
- Already being near or far sighted
- Injury to the eyes
- High eye pressure which is referred to as Intraocular Pressure (IOP)
- Thinning around the optic nerve
- Thinning of the corneas
- Prolonged use of steroid medicines
If you or your elderly loved one has any of these risk factors there’s likely to be an increased risk of developing Glaucoma. Early detection of Glaucoma is the key to slowing down the development of the disease, and having an eye examination is the only way that you can detect it. The eye examination will include an eye dilation. If high IOP is detected, treatment can commence in order to slow the development of the disease, which consequently can save your eyesight.
As previously mentioned, many people with Glaucoma are asymptomatic and therefore the disease goes undiagnosed. In fact, it’s estimated that approximately 50% of people with Glaucoma don’t even know that they have it. But one of the first signs of the disease is loss to peripheral vision, causing tunnel vision. Therefore, a thorough eye examination to detect Glaucoma is essential.
Treatments for Glaucoma
The early treatment of Glaucoma is necessary to slow down the progression of Glaucoma, but they can’t reverse the damage that has already occurred. Treatments include medications, surgery and Trabeculoplasty.
Medications typically include regular eye drops for the treatment of Glaucoma. If medications aren’t effective on their own, some people with Glaucoma are candidates for selective laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT). SLT is a laser procedure performed by an Ophthalmologist to allow fluid in the eye to drain more efficiently. And finally, some people suffering from Glaucoma are candidates for surgery if they don’t respond to other treatments. Surgery includes draining the fluid from the eye via a surgical procedure.
Finally, this World Glaucoma Week be sure to organise an eye test. If you need further information go to Glaucoma Australia.