Six consultant tips to help slow glaucoma progression
As of June 2022, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) estimated that 603,000 people were living with glaucoma in the UK. Though there’s no cure for this condition, there are steps people can take to help slow its progression. Here are six of them.
When people are diagnosed with glaucoma, they may be left feeling overwhelmed and have many questions. With the first symptoms including sight loss at the edge of people’s vision, glaucoma can go completely undetected, and any sight loss is irreversible.
Furthermore, the RNIB estimates that almost 1.2 million people are currently living with ocular hypertension (meaning they have high eye pressure that could progress to glaucoma if not monitored) and that there will be an 18% increase in people living with glaucoma by 2032.
So, with no cure for glaucoma, how can those living with the condition help slow down the advancement of symptoms? Our consultants have provided six tips to help them.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an incurable eye condition caused by excessive pressure in the eye which results in damage to the optic nerve.
This pressure is caused when too much aqueous humour fluid is produced in the space between the cornea and lens at the front of the eye. This fluid is naturally produced by the ciliary body (behind the iris) and usually drains away through the trabecular meshwork (a set of channels at the angle of the cornea and iris).
To maintain the eye’s shape and health, the pressure balance caused by the production and drainage of aqueous humour fluid needs to be kept within a certain range. If this range is exceeded or the pressure falls too low, this will place stress on the optic nerve (which leads to the brain) at the back of the eye.
This nerve damage then causes problems with the signals passed between the brain and the eye. As this damage increases, so does the resulting sight loss.
What causes glaucoma?
As previously mentioned, glaucoma is most commonly caused by an increase in eye pressure which results in damage to the optic nerve. Although it is possible for people with normal eye pressure to develop glaucoma, high eye pressure (otherwise known as ocular hypertension) is considered to be a major risk factor.
Other risk factors for glaucoma include:
What does glaucoma vision look like?
Though typical examples of what people living with glaucoma experience include black spots or patches, this isn’t the reality for most. In fact, many people don’t realise they’re experiencing symptoms until they’re diagnosed by an optometrist.
In the early days, optic nerve damage can cause blurry or wobbly vision, usually at the edges of the visual field. Depending on whether glaucoma is in one eye or two, these symptoms will be experienced differently.
It’s only in the advanced stages of the condition that people might have real difficulties with their vision, including during daily tasks such as reading, driving or cooking.
What is the first sign of glaucoma?
As mentioned above, the first signs of glaucoma are hard for individuals to detect before they’re diagnosed by an optometrist. Some people may experience blurriness or wobbly peripheral vision (outer edges of their sight). This may be more noticeable in one eye when the other is closed.
Having regular eye tests and exams, particularly if you experience any sight problems or have glaucoma risk factors, is key to the early detection of the condition.
How to help slow down glaucoma progression
Though there’s no final cure for glaucoma, there are ways people can slow down the worsening of symptoms. These include lifestyle changes, some of which are outlined below.
1. Add leafy greens to your diet
A study of the health records of more than 100,000 people over the course of 30 years found that those who consumed 240mg of nitrates a day reduced their likelihood of certain types of glaucoma by a third. This level of nitrates can be consumed by eating two large handfuls of leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and kale, every day.
By introducing these vegetables regularly into a diet, it is thought that blood circulation to the optic nerve is improved, minimising the likelihood of further damage.
2. Maintain a healthy weight
Whether it helps to control insulin levels or reduce blood pressure, having a healthy diet and partaking in regular moderate exercise will keep your weight at an optimum level and reduce your risk of glaucoma. By maintaining a moderate weight and not swinging between the extremes, you can keep the pressure level in your eyes within the right range.
3. Keep your teeth clean
Unlikely as it may seem, recent studies have started to draw a correlation between maintaining good oral health and reducing the risk of glaucoma. Specifically, periodontal disease was found to be associated with a greater likelihood of glaucoma in people aged 70 to 79. As such, keeping teeth clean and arranging regular dental check-ups will help maintain both your eye and mouth health.
4. Check for family history
Someone who is related to a person with glaucoma is more likely to develop the condition themselves. Therefore, knowing about any family history and getting regular check ups, ideally every two years or more, will mean any diagnosis and treatment can be started as early as possible.
If you have already been diagnosed with glaucoma, it is clinical best practice to be seen by a consultant ophthalmologist every year. This is the most effective way to monitor and slow down the condition’s progression to preserve sight for as long as possible.
5. Protect your eyes
Any external damage to the eyes can exacerbate glaucoma symptoms. The sun and any other objects or substances that can cause irritation or scars to the eye may cause further blockages and pressure to build up.
Wearing glasses with high levels of UV protection on bright days and using protective lenses when working to keep dust or other particulates out can all help maintain eye health.
6. Get regular eye exams and advice
Whether you’ve been given treatments such as eye drops or you’ve been advised to have an eye exam every year, making sure you get and follow professional advice is key to slowing the progression of glaucoma.
Modern techniques, such as the use of optical coherence tomography (OCT) scans use low-powered laser light to build a three-dimensional picture of the different layers of your retina. Don’t worry, they are perfectly safe, and they allow ophthalmologists to see what is going on, often before you notice any change in symptoms.
Don’t forget to tell your consultant about any symptoms you may be experiencing so they can give you the best advice to preserve your sight for as long as possible.
Ocuplan helps people living with glaucoma do this by providing affordable and reliable care to monitor their condition, including in-person consultant appointments and tests at local opticians.
To learn more about how OcuPlan can help to preserve your vision, speak to our friendly customer service team on 0207 173 5200.