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The Challenges of Glaucoma as We Age

When facing the aging process, we know there are challenges...but we also know these challenges do not have to ruin our fun. Growing old is a fact of life. The key to managing the normal aging process is to embrace it and take the best care of ourselves so that we might continue living independently for as long as possible.

In order to take care of ourselves, we must be aware of various types of conditions that become more prevalent as we age. Regular visits to the doctor are a must to determine if certain symptoms we experience are cause for worry or not. It is just as important to have regular eye exams for the same purpose, as vision loss can mean the difference in living independently or not.

Glaucoma is a word we have all heard - but as we age it becomes increasingly important to know what it means. In knowledgeable circles it is called the "sneak thief of sight," as this disease is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, according to the World Health Organization. There are rarely warning signs. Once symptoms begin to show, vision loss is permanent. There is no cure. However, blindness caused by glaucoma can also be prevented, provided it is detected at an early stage.

Risk factors for glaucoma increase if you are over the age of 60; are Hispanic, African American or Asian; have diabetes as a result of being obese; have family members (especially siblings) with glaucoma; are very nearsighted.

Because there are rarely symptoms that indicate the presence of glaucoma, most people do not realize there is a problem until loss of vision occurs. By this time, it is often too late. Up to 40% of your vision can disappear without your realizing you have glaucoma. This vision loss, while avoidable through early diagnosis, is irreversible once it presents itself. Early diagnosis of glaucoma is critical as there are treatments such as medicine or surgery that can slow the progression of vision loss. The only way glaucoma can be detected is by regular comprehensive eye exams, which should begin sometime within your middle-aged years.

Because this disease is more common in people over the age of 60, it is important that you discuss with your senior loved ones how crucial it is to have regular eye exams. Depending on your age, you might decide to book your own appointment, as well. Find out if any of family members have glaucoma and do research to determine if other risk factors are present. Remember, early detection is critical in managing this disease and preventing complete vision loss.

For more information, visit www.glaucoma.org.

References
Platt, Spencer. USA Today (2010). Changing with age: confronting glaucoma before it's too late. Retrieved on December 2, 2011, from usatoday.com/news/health/2010-07-15-glaucoma-blindness_N.htm
Glaucoma Research Foundation (2011). Glaucoma awareness month. Retrieved on December 2, 2011, from glaucoma.org/news/glaucoma-awareness-month.php
Whitmore, Lynn A. and Medley, Rachel. Glaucoma Research Foundation (2011). Understanding and living with glaucoma. Retrieved on December 2, 2011, from glaucoma.org/treatment/literature.php

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