Senior woman having an eye examGlaucoma is the number one cause of irreversible blindness. This group of eye diseases damage the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain. There are no symptoms and the permanent vision loss can occur without warning. In fact, you could lose up to 40 percent of your vision without noticing!

What should seniors know about glaucoma?

Prevalence of Glaucoma

According to the National Eye Institute, more than three million people have glaucoma. By 2030, that number is expected to increase to 4.2 million. Glaucoma is most prevalent in Latino and Hispanic populations, as well as the elderly. Risk increases for people:

  • Over the age of 60
  • With a family history of the disease
  • Who have diabetes
  • Who are nearsighted

The most common form is open-angle glaucoma, which increases pressure in the eye. First, peripheral vision is attacked – the ability to see out of the corners of your eyes – then central vision, which helps us see shapes, colors and details.

Dangers of Vision Loss in Seniors

While loss of sight can be extremely dangerous for a person of any age, the elderly must be aware of the following:

  • Increased fall risk
  • Inability to read medication bottles
  • Trouble bathing, dressing, etc.
  • Depression and/or loneliness

Approximately 6.5 million Americans over 65 have a severe visual impairment. The goal of Glaucoma Awareness Month is to bring attention to the serious effects of the disease and encourage people to schedule an eye exam.

Glaucoma Prevention

The best defense against glaucoma? Regular dilated eye exams. An optometrist will perform a tonometry and ophthalmoscopy to look at the inner eye and optic nerve for abnormalities.

  • Tonometry: Puff of air into the eye to measure the inner pressure.
  • Ophthalmoscopy: Pupil dilation to see the shape and color of the optic nerve.

You can also ask about your family’s history of vision loss and lead a healthy lifestyle to avoid chronic conditions that increase risk of glaucoma:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Control blood pressure
  • Be physically active
  • Avoid smoking

Once glaucoma causes vision loss, it cannot come back. To protect your eye health with age, have your eyes examined at least once a year.
Avon Health Center is a local resource for questions about aging. To learn more about the services offered at our skilled nursing facility, contact us today!