Glaucoma is a severe eye condition that affects millions of people around the world. It is characterized by increased eye pressure, which may damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss. Caregivers are integral in helping individuals manage their glaucoma to maintain their vision and improve their surroundings for safety.
There are often no early symptoms, which is why 50% of people with glaucoma don’t know they have the disease. The best bet here is to make and keep regularly scheduled appointments with the ophthalmologist.
Glaucoma is increased pressure inside the eye (called intraocular pressure or IOP), which can damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss. The pressure can lead to some symptoms to look out for and trigger a visit to the doctor:
Regular screening is a good habit if you have symptoms are in a high risk category or have a family history. We have gone to Walmart's Vision Center and my parents and they liked to go shopping afterwards.
The Mayo Clinic reports, "The damage caused by glaucoma can't be reversed. But treatment and regular checkups can help slow or prevent vision loss, especially if the treated disease is in early stages." Treatments can slow down additional vision loss but can’t restore lost vision.
While glaucoma can cause vision loss, it does not necessarily lead to blindness. With early detection and proper treatment, disease progress can be slowed, and in some cases, future vision loss can be prevented.
The first thing caregivers need to know about glaucoma is that there are different types of conditions. The most common type is primary open-angle glaucoma, which develops gradually and has no early symptoms. Other types of glaucoma are angle-closure and congenital glaucoma, which have different causes and require different treatments.
According to the CDC, anyone can get glaucoma, but some people are at higher risk. These groups include African Americans over age 40, all people over age 60, people with a family history of glaucoma, and those with diabetes. African Americans are 6 to 8 times more likely to get glaucoma than others.
Caregivers need to understand the glaucoma risk factors because they can be related to other medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.
People with diabetes are two times more likely to get glaucoma than people without diabetes.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a risk factor for developing glaucoma because it can damage blood vessels in the eye, including the optic nerve.
Caregivers need to know the signs and symptoms of the condition, which may include gradual vision loss, blurred vision, difficulty adjusting to low light, and changes in the color of the iris.
There are many treatments for glaucoma, with most focused on reducing intraocular pressure with eye drops, oral medications, laser therapy, or surgery. Caregivers must understand the ophthalmologists' options for a treatment plan to support it best.
Typical caregiver support is assisting with medication management, following treatment plans, and keeping regular checks with the ophthalmologist to monitor the condition.
Caregivers can also encourage the glaucoma patient to make lifestyle changes that may help to slow the progression.
Some lifestyle changes clinicians recommend they eat a healthy diet, regular moderate exercise (see video below), wearing eye protection, and avoiding smoking. In addition, glaucoma sufferers need to protect their eyes from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays.
As with any vision loss, living spaces need to be safe to get around in and organized to make healthy choices.
Vision loss is difficult and emotional for everyone involved. Caregivers are vital in helping individuals manage glaucoma and maintain their vision. However, we are best equipped to provide meaningful support when we get education on glaucoma types, the risk factors, signs and symptoms, and medically assisted treatment options.
CircleOf is a solution that helps family caregivers manage and organize caregiving. In the app, posts and calendars enable medication management, appointment scheduling, and task lists. So you can support them without getting burned out. Find more help in our blogs here.
Dr. Eyeball MD - No, we did not make this up. Dr. Zac Keenum is an ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgery fellow at UTSW in Dallas, TX. The USA. This YouTube video is a basic description of glaucoma and treatments in plain English with props.
Living with Glaucoma: Tips on Nutrition and Exercise from Mona Kaleem, MD, is an Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute. Glaucoma Research Foundation produces the video.
Read up on Glaucoma with the book Coping with Glaucoma by Edith Marks. "Coping with Glaucoma" describes glaucoma types, explains the connections between glaucoma and other health conditions, and explains various tests and procedures used to diagnose and monitor glaucoma.
If someone with glaucoma has difficulty reading their favorite books, we recommend Audiobooks. It's different from the same experience, but 85% of what we learn is learned through listening.
Audiobooks has a HUGE variety of audiobook titles for download and can be sent as a gift. Also, check out their caregiving club, where caregivers can connect and share caregiving tips and advice.
1-800-GOT-JUNK? makes it easy to get unwanted items out of your way. All you have to do is point—they will take care of the lifting, loading, and cleanup after the job is done. They also do their best to find new homes for your possessions, by donating and recycling as much as possible.
Carex Compass Brands is a leader for smart in-home, self-care medical products. They sell quality products that bring dignity, ease of use and promote independence for use in the comfort of your home.
DiscountGlasses.com provides competitive prices and top-notch customer service so you have the ability to purchase multiple frames to show off whoever you are, or however you’re feeling, on any given day.