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I have glaucoma. How can my vision be preserved?

Protecting your optic nerve function

Living with glaucoma and the threat of vision loss can be daunting, but there’s hope. Understanding how to protect your optic nerve function is key to preserving your vision. In this article, we’ll delve into strategies for safeguarding your sight and maintaining optimal eye health despite the challenges posed by glaucoma.

Understanding Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions characterised by damage to the optic nerve, typically caused by increased pressure within the eye. The most common type of glaucoma is open-angle glaucoma which develops slowly and painlessly over time. Peripheral vision is affected first, followed by central vision and finally resulting in blindness.  Less common types include closed-angle glaucoma and normal-tension glaucoma. Closed-angle glaucoma can appear slowly over time or suddenly. The sudden presentation may involve severe eye pain, blurred vision, mid-dilated pupils, redness of the eye, and nausea. 

Any form of damage to the optic nerve can lead to irreversible vision loss if left untreated. While the different forms of glaucoma cannot be cured, proactive management can help slow its progression and preserve the remaining vision.

If you are over 60 years of age; have a family history of glaucoma; are of African, Hispanic, or Asian descent; or suffer from a medical condition like diabetes or hypertension you are at higher risk of developing glaucoma. Additionally, if you have a history of eye injuries or prolonged use of certain medications can lead to damage to your optic nerve.

Protecting optic nerve function:

  1. Regular eye exams: Subtle changes to your vision, especially as you age, can seem minor and you may not feel warrant a trip to the ophthalmologist. Routine eye exams are crucial for early detection and monitoring of glaucoma. Your ophthalmologist will assess your optic nerve health, measure intraocular pressure, and perform visual field tests to detect any signs of damage. Once glaucoma has caused damage to your optic nerve, the damage is permanent making early detection a real plus.
  2. Medication: Prescription eye drops are often prescribed to lower intraocular pressure and prevent further damage to the optic nerve. It’s essential to follow your medication regimen diligently and attend regular follow-up appointments to ensure optimal treatment efficacy.
  3. Supplements: Your ophthalmologist may suggest supplements to improve your overall eye health.
  4. Lifestyle: Maintaining a healthy diet, intermittent fasting, managing stress, and avoiding activities that increase intraocular pressure (like heavy lifting or strenuous exercise), can help protect optic nerve function and slow the progression of glaucoma.
  5. Surgical Intervention: In cases where medication alone is insufficient, surgical procedures may be recommended to lower intraocular pressure and preserve optic nerve health.
  6. Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT): SLT is a commonly used procedure to treat open-angle glaucoma. A laser is used to target specific cells to help to improve the drainage of fluid, thus reducing intraocular pressure (IOP). SLT is minimally invasive and can be repeated if necessary.

While living with glaucoma presents challenges, early detection and proactive management strategies can help preserve optic nerve function and maintain vision. By prioritising regular eye exams, adhering to prescribed treatment regimens and making lifestyle modifications, you can take control of your eye health and vision. Your ophthalmologist may discuss surgical options with you if required. Remember, early detection and intervention are crucial for maximising treatment efficacy and preserving your vision for years to come.

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