With age often comes a natural decline in vision.
A stronger prescription, or an increased need for reading glasses, are expected parts of the aging process, especially for adults around age 50.
However, older adults also have a higher risk of developing more serious age-related eye conditions that can potentially lead to vision loss.
Dr. Sara Huh, ophthalmologist at EvergreenHealth Eye Care, sheds some light on glaucoma…a common eye condition, its symptoms, treatments and what steps you can take now to preserve your eyesight as you age.
What is glaucoma?
Dr. Sara Huh: Glaucoma is a group of diseases that results in weakened peripheral (side) vision caused by damage to the optic nerve— the nerve that transfers vision information to the brain.
It typically occurs when increased pressure from fluid buildup inside the front part of the eye, damaging the optic nerve and leading to narrowed field of sight.
Glaucoma is often referred to as "the silent thief of sight" since it doesn’t offer noticeable warning symptoms – and once vision is lost, it's permanent.
As the disease progresses, blind spots develop in your peripheral vision. As much as 40 percent of vision can be lost without a person noticing; but having regular eye exams can help your ophthalmologist find and control the disease before it worsens.
Is there a cure for glaucoma?
Dr. Huh: While there is not yet a cure for glaucoma, early diagnosis and treatment can help to preserve patients’ remaining eyesight.
Treatment focuses on reducing pressure in the eye. Your physician will usually recommend regular use of prescription eye drops to start.
More serious cases might require additional medications, laser treatment or other types of surgery.
Who is at risk for developing glaucoma?
Dr. Huh: Some people have a higher than normal risk of developing glaucoma. This includes people who:
How can you prevent glaucoma and other age-related vision conditions?
Dr. Huh: Although you certainly can’t control all risk factors, mitigating as many factors as possible— such as lifestyle changes— can go a long way in supporting healthy vision as you age.
Eye conditions can occur less often in people who exercise, avoid smoking and eat nutritious foods – including green leafy vegetables and fish. If you are already diagnosed with an eye condition, adopting some of these habits may prevent your vision from worsening.
While weakened eyesight is common with age, the vision loss that comes along with serious eye conditions is not inevitable. To stay on top of your eye health, it is critical to see your doctor for regular eye examinations, even if you haven’t noticed any symptoms.
For additional information on treatment for glaucoma and other helpful resources, visit www.glaucoma.org.
Dr. Sara Huh is a fellowship-trained ophthalmologist and glaucoma specialist who practices comprehensive ophthalmology, including management of cataracts and cataract surgery, diabetic eye care, dry eye treatment, and glaucoma.Read Dr. Huh’s profile