Senior Health, Critical Screening for Glaucoma

Jan 23rd, 2011 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: Lifestyle, Health & Fitness

We talked about glaucoma several months ago, and it’s time to revisit this important medical issue that affects millions of senior citizens around the globe.  Glaucoma results when eye pressure becomes high enough over a long enough period of time to damage the optic nerve.  There are several issues that create increased eye pressure.

A review of the kinds of glaucoma reveals two basic ones:  open-angle glaucoma is the result of the drainage canals becoming clogged in the eye; when that happens, the fluid in the eye (aqueous humor) increases and causes eye pressure to increase; if untreated, this can create damage to the optic nerve.  This is the most common kind of glaucoma; 78-90% of glaucoma patients have this kind (about three million people in the United States).

The second kind, more rare and potentially more dangerous because it can happen quickly, is angle-closure glaucoma.  With this problem, the space between the iris and cornea becomes too small for the aqueous humor (fluid in the eye) to drain; it gets blocked and as a result, the fluid increases and the pressure in the eye increases.

Treatment for glaucoma is absolutely critical to avoid blindness. Treatment includes using eye drops that control and manage eye pressure so the optic nerve is not damaged.  Since it is not curable, seeking help from an opthamologist remains the most important step to take in diagnosing and treating this eye problem.  Diagnosing glaucoma in senior citizens is important so treatment can begin as soon after onset of the illness as possible.  Diagnosis is a simple test of eye pressure, and evaluation of the condition of the optic nerve.  Seniors need to see their opthamologist annually so this condition can be screened for on a regular basis.  Glaucoma is very common, and even if you fall outside the risk factors, you need to have your eye doctor take a look at your optic nerve and do the eye pressure test every year.

So schedule your eye exam now if it’s been a year (or more) since you last saw her/him.



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