Save Your Sight, It Begins With You
Glaucoma is a common eye condition often associated with aging where the optic nerve which connects the eye to the brain becomes damaged. Glaucoma is usually caused by an increase in pressure inside the eye due to a buildup of fluid in the front part of the eye.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. South Africa has a diverse population but there is a lack of published data amongst the different ethnic groups. Globally, it’s estimated that there are 60 million people with signs of optic nerve damage due to glaucoma and an estimated 8.4 million people who are blind as a result of glaucoma. Africa has the highest number of people affected by blindness in comparison to other regions worldwide and glaucoma accounts for 15% of blindness.
According to an article from Spec-Savers, 75% of all cases of blindness are avoidable either through prevention or through treatment of your eyes. Eye examinations ensure your eyes stay healthy and that any abnormalities which could lead to an eye disease are detected early enough to prevent damage. It is recommended that everyone should have their eyes tested at least once every two years – even if there is no change in your vision. Other tips to ensure eye health include the following:
Know your family’s health history
Some eye diseases and conditions run in families such as age-related macular degeneration (an eye disease that causes vision loss in the centre of the field of vision) or glaucoma. Interestingly, most people don’t realise that having your eyes examined regularly could save you from a serious illness.
Eyes are sensitive indicators for conditions such as high blood pressure, hypertension and excess cholesterol. Furthermore, a full eye examination is important in the detection and control of diabetes, as one of the first signs of this disease is erratic vision and a change in prescription.
Eating healthy and following a diet low in saturated fats and rich in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli will help keep you and your eyes healthy. Fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon and tuna are also good for the health of your eyes. Additionally, it is important to maintain a healthy weight as obesity can increase the risk of developing diabetes, which in turn can cause sight loss.
Smoking increases your risk of diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts and it can harm the optic nerve of your eyes. Try to reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke in a day or stop altogether. There is help available, but the choice starts with you.
Get a comprehensive eye test
Getting treatment early can help save your eyesight from conditions such as cataracts, cloudy vision and floaters. Diabetes or high blood pressure can also increase your risk of some eye diseases. For example, people with diabetes are at risk for diabetic retinopathy — an eye condition that can cause vision loss and blindness.
Apply the 20-2-20 rule
If you find yourself in front of a computer all day it is important to take regular eye breaks. After 20 minutes, look far away and count slowly to 20. After 2 hours working on a digital device, take a 20-minute break This will allow your eyes to completely relax and at the same time remind you to stop and take a hydration break. There are lots of apps you can download to help you remember to apply the rule every 20 minutes.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT
Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve. The optic nerve sends visual information from your eye to your brain and is vital for good vision.
Damage to the optic nerve is often related to high pressure in your eye.
Glaucoma can occur at any age but is more common in older adults. It is one of the leading causes of blindness for people over the age of 60.
Types of glaucoma