Can You Prevent Glaucoma? Tips From Glaucoma Doc

Glaucoma, which is one of the leading causes of blindness in the world, is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, which is essential for maintaining good vision. The damage to the optic nerve is often related to high eye pressure, but glaucoma can occur even with normal eye pressure. It can also occur at any age, although it is more common in older individuals, and is slightly more common if you have a family history of glaucoma. 

Early detection and treatment of glaucoma are crucial in preventing vision loss, but the question remains as to whether glaucoma itself can be prevented. For the most part, eye doctors will say the ways to prevent glaucoma are limited, but there may be some things that you can do to lower glaucoma risk as well as improve optic nerve health.

Can You Prevent Glaucoma With Regular Exercise?

There is some evidence to show that certain things like moderate exercise may be helpful in decreasing the risk for developing glaucoma, but there are multiple risk factors involved. This means that not everyone who doesn’t exercise will develop glaucoma and it also means that someone who exercises regularly can still get glaucoma. 

Engaging in regular physical activity, particularly moderate aerobic exercise, has been shown to temporarily lower intraocular pressure. High IOP (intraocular pressure) is a significant risk factor for the development and progression of glaucoma. Although the reduction in IOP may be temporary, consistent exercise may help maintain a lower average IOP over time.

Exercise can improve blood circulation throughout the body, including the optic nerve and the retina. Better blood flow to these areas can potentially reduce the risk of glaucomatous damage or slow down the progression of the disease. It is worth noting that certain exercises involving head-down positions or holding one’s breath can increase IOP and should be avoided or modified for people with glaucoma.

Regular exercise has numerous benefits for overall cardiovascular health, such as lowering blood pressure, improving heart function, and reducing the risk of vascular diseases. As vascular factors are believed to play a role in the development and progression of glaucoma, maintaining good cardiovascular health through exercise may help reduce the risk of the disease.

Can You Prevent Glaucoma By Having Regular Eye Exams?

Regular eye exams are very important to stop further vision loss from glaucoma, but they will not prevent you from having glaucoma. Because the symptoms of glaucoma do not become apparent until the disease has progressed, the eye doctor plays an important role in monitoring patients who are at high risk for developing this group of diseases. 

Studies do show that early treatment of glaucoma is more likely to result in vision preservation than patients who delayed treatment. This is where regular eye exams are important since without an eye doctor looking at the back of your eye, there is no way to detect if your optic nerve looks at risk for glaucoma or not. When an ophthalmologist performs a comprehensive dilated eye exam, they will look at the eye’s optic nerve.  Specifically, the eye doctor is looking for warning signs of glaucoma such as optic nerve cupping. 

Other clues that may make an eye doctor suspicious for the development of glaucoma are high intraocular pressure, a suspicious change on an OCT (optical coherence tomography test) or a peripheral vision deficit on a visual field exam. These all can be done by your eye doctor during routine eye exams. There are many different types of glaucoma and the doctor can screen for all of them when they evaluate your eye health.

Can You Prevent Glaucoma By Maintaining Good Overall Health?

​A healthy lifestyle is undoubtedly good for all health conditions, but is it specifically good for preventing glaucoma? This depends on the type of glaucoma. 

If you are in a profession where you could experience trauma to the eye, using protective eyewear is important. This is because there is a form of glaucoma that is caused by trauma to the eye. This is probably the most “preventable” form of glaucoma and ophthalmologists may refer to this as secondary glaucoma. This is because the glaucoma is secondary to having eye injuries. 

Additionally, if a patient has a cataract that grows very large, this can cause a condition called phacomorphic glaucoma. This is also a form of glaucoma that is technically preventable, since removal of the cataract at an earlier time would prevent this type of glaucoma. This is also a secondary form of glaucoma. 

Smoking cessation can also help. Avoiding smoking can lower the risk of glaucoma and other eye diseases, as smoking can cause damage to the optic nerves. Quitting smoking also benefits overall health.

Can You Prevent Glaucoma By Treating Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea, specifically obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), has been associated with an increased risk of developing glaucoma. The relationship between sleep apnea and glaucoma is not yet fully understood, but several factors may contribute to this association

Sleep apnea can cause intermittent episodes of low oxygen levels (hypoxia) due to the repeated blockage of the upper airway. These episodes of hypoxia can lead to oxidative stress and inflammation, which may damage the optic nerve and increase the risk of glaucoma.

Foods To Prevent Glaucoma?

There are no specific foods that will prevent glaucoma. Maintaining a healthy diet and overall lifestyle can be helpful. Additionally, properly managing weight and conditions like diabetes through a healthy diet can also help to improve the overall health of your body and the delivery of oxygen to your optic nerve.

Can You Stop Glaucoma

Yes,it is very possible to stop glaucoma and reduce your risk of vision loss. While most forms of glaucoma are not definitively preventable, glaucoma is very treatable. The good news is that this is one of the medical conditions that has several medication options and surgical options. Usually at the initial diagnosis, patients will started on prescription eye drops or they will have laser done by their ophthalmologist. This will help to stop glaucoma from progressing.

The eye doctor will perform regular comprehensive eye exams on glaucoma patients to assess if the glaucoma treatment is adequate. Some of these tests include a visual field test to assess the patient’s side vision. an OCT test to take a look at the nerve fiber layer of the nerve, a gonioscopy to evaluate the drainage angle, and the eye pressure. 

Depending on the stage of the glaucoma as well as a person’s risk profile, the doctor will determine how frequent the regular check-ups should be. In patients with very high pressure and signs of progression, physicians may want to see these patients every two to three months. In patients who are stable and have less risk factors, they may see them every 6 to 12 months. 

​In order to stop glaucoma, you should follow the guidance of your ophthalmologist and also consider seeing a glaucoma specialist depending on how advanced your glaucoma is. It is also important to maintain good compliance with your eye drops. Patients who forget to take their eye drops and medications when they are suppose to allow excess fluid to build in the eye and cause the eye pressure to go up. This can lead to glaucomatous optic nerve damage. 

Can You Prevent Glaucoma: Summary

There are certain things a patient can do to reduce their risk of glaucoma. Maintaining a healthy weight through exercise can help to improve blood flow and oxygenation to the optic nerve. If you have medical conditions, such as sleep apnea or diabetes, that could be contributing to hypoxia and glaucoma, it is also important to treat these. It is also a good idea to see an eye doctor regularly as this is the only way to truly assess your risk for glaucoma. 

Unfortunately, some patients may do all the right things and they can still develop glaucoma. There are multiple factors that contribute including race and family history. Visiting your ophthalmologist on a regular basis for a comprehensive eye exam can help to evaluate for glaucoma (and other eye problems) which is very treatable but not yet curable. 

Catching glaucoma in its early stages is the best way to avoid vision loss form this disease. Some common therapies include eye drops and laser treatment. In later stages, surgery may be needed to stop glaucoma from progressing.

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