Table of Contents
Glaucoma comes in many forms. Most can't be prevented.
Instead, doctors focus on early diagnosis. The sooner you can catch the disease, the more vision you can preserve. (Learn more)
Eye exams help your doctor catch glaucoma in its early stages, and those appointments are especially critical for people with many glaucoma risk factors. (Learn more)
If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, eye drops can help to ease the pressure in your eye. Your doctor might also recommend oral medications or surgery if eye drops don't amend the issue. (Learn more)
While there is no lifestyle shift you can make to treat or prevent glaucoma, eating right and getting exercise can boost eye health. (Learn more)
Understand the Types of Glaucoma
A healthy eye produces and recycles fluid regularly. An eye with glaucoma struggles with that system. Too much fluid is created, or too little moves out of the eye. Pressure builds, and that starves the optic nerve of critical nutrition. Vision loss sets in. Most people with glaucoma have this issue, but there are many forms of the disease.
Prevent Blindness recognizes four main types of glaucoma:
- Chronic (or open-angle): This form of the disease develops slowly. Fluid doesn't drain efficiently, and pressure builds.
- Normal tension: People with this condition are very sensitive to normal pressure levels in the eye.
- Acute: This form of glaucoma happens suddenly. A drainage channel of the eye blocks, and pressure builds very quickly.
- Secondary: Another eye issue is responsible for this form of glaucoma.
Of these forms of glaucoma, only one can be truly prevented. Secondary glaucoma can take hold after an acute eye injury, such as a blow to the face. Wearing proper protection while doing anything that could harm your eyes could prevent it from happening.
Exams Are Critical
As we mentioned, most forms of glaucoma can't be prevented. The vision you lose due to the disease won't come back either. But treatment can help to prevent more vision loss, and the sooner treatment starts, the better. Regular eye checks can help your doctor spot problems early.
The Glaucoma Research Foundation recommends the following eye exam treatment schedule:
- People younger than 40: An exam every two to four years
- People 40 to 54: An exam every one to three years
- People 55 to 64: An exam every one to two years
- People 65 and older: An exam every six months to a year
If you're at high risk for glaucoma, your doctor might suggest an accelerated exam schedule. Keeping your appointments close together can help your doctor preserve your sight as long as possible.
The BrightFocus Foundation says risk factors vary by glaucoma type.
- Open-angle glaucoma: You may be at higher risk if you have a family history of glaucoma, are 40 or older and are of African descent, are 60 and older and Latino, or have thin corneas. You could also be at increased risk if you are severely nearsighted, have diabetes or high blood pressure, or use corticosteroids regularly.
- Angle-closure glaucoma: Your risk is higher if you're 40 or older, have a glaucoma family history, are farsighted, or are of East Asian or Inuit ethnicity.
- Normal-tension glaucoma: If you have heart disease, low eye pressure, a glaucoma family history, or are of Japanese ethnicity, your risk is higher.
Scan this list, and you'll notice that family history of the disease plays a role in increasing your risk of almost every type of glaucoma. If you're not sure if someone in your family was diagnosed, ask questions. The more you know about your genes and genetic risk factors, the better you can protect yourself.
If your doctor suspects glaucoma, you'll need testing to confirm the diagnosis. Prevent Blindness says doctors use these tests to check for the disease:
- Ophthalmoscopy: Drops dilate your eyes, and your doctor examines your optic nerve.
- Imaging: Drops dilate your eyes, and lasers highlight the appearance of your optic nerve.
- Tonometry: Drops numb your eyes, and a pen is pressed into the surface of the globe to measure pressure.
- Perimetry: Your vision is tested to highlight any areas of deficit.
- Gonioscopy: Drops numb your eye, and a special lens sits on the front of your eye to measure drainage rate.
These tests shouldn't hurt, and they often take little time to complete. But when the full workup is complete, your doctor will have a complete picture of your eye health and how your glaucoma should be treated.
Glaucoma Treatment Works
Glaucoma therapy's goal is to preserve the vision you have. Plans are customized by glaucoma type, overall eye health, and more. You will follow the treatment program you create with your doctor for the rest of your life.
Most glaucoma treatment plans begin with eye drops. But if those don't provide enough help, your doctor can use oral medications. You might also need surgery to help your eyes improve.
Your treatment plan is critical, but it can also be complicated. You might need to use different drops multiple times per day, and adding oral medication to the mix can increase the complexity yet more.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology says forgetfulness is the top reason people don't follow their plan properly. Use memory aids, including:
- Cellphone alarms or apps.
- Reminders from friends.
- Physical cues, such as keeping your drops in plain sight.
Lifestyle Tips May Help
While there is no supplement or fitness routine that can completely prevent or treat glaucoma, crafting a healthy lifestyle can keep your eyes in tip-top shape. That could help you fend off other issues that could harm your vision.
Researchers suggest that physical fitness can lower eye pressure, and that could keep glaucoma from forming or worsening. It's important to note that this research is preliminary, and some forms of glaucoma worsen with jarring, jolting exercise. Avoid holding your breath during exercise as this can increase pressure in the eyes. If you're looking for a reason to hop up from the couch and get outside, this could be just the prompt you need.
A healthy diet that's heavy on fruits, vegetables, and vitamins E and A could also help keep your eyes healthy, experts say. If you're not sure how to alter your diet to help your eyes, talk with your doctor. Together, you can create an eating plan that tastes great and keeps your eyes healthy.
Ultimately, a nourishing lifestyle supports all aspects of your health, including your eye health. Take steps that support whole-body wellness, and your eyes will also benefit.
What Are the Different Types of Glaucoma? Prevent Blindness.
Uveitis. Prevent Blindness.
What Can I Do to Prevent Glaucoma? (October 2017). Glaucoma Research Foundation.
Glaucoma: Prevention and Risk Factors. BrightFocus Foundation.
How Do Eye Doctors Check for Glaucoma? Prevent Blindness.
Six Helpful Hints for People Taking Glaucoma Medication. (January 2015). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Exercise May Protect You From Glaucoma. (November 2017). Medical News Today.
Nutrition and Glaucoma. (April 2012). Glaucoma Research Foundation.
The Role of Diet in Glaucoma: A Review of the Current Evidence. (June 2018). Ophthalmology and Therapy.