Did you know January is Glaucoma Awareness Month? Although no cure exists, the eye disease may be treated with medication and surgery. If left undiagnosed and untreated, however, glaucoma can cause permanent damage to vision. According to the National Eye Institute, glaucoma affects more than three million people in the United States. The population that is at highest risk is adults over the age of 60. Glaucoma affects vision by damaging the optic nerve and typical vision loss occurs in the peripheral visual field. This type of loss can create difficulty performing everyday tasks. To mark the importance of Glaucoma Awareness Month, Low Vision Focus @ Hadley offers these tips to improve independence and safety for people with glaucoma-related vision impairments.
Tips for Living With Glaucoma
- Loss of peripheral vision makes it difficult to see steps and stairways. Marking treads and handrails with contrasting colored paint or tape can improve navigation and reduce the risk of falling.
- Persons with glaucoma often experience difficulty adjusting to darkness or darkened rooms. Increase illumination in dark closets or hallways by installing additional lighting fixtures. When outdoors at night, carry a strong flashlight.
- Area rugs can pose a hazard for persons with visual field loss. It’s best to keep home pathways and work areas free of extra floor coverings.
- In all locations where you might be a frequent visitor, ask someone to give you a tour. It goes without saying you need to know where the bathroom is located, as well as how to exit the building from a variety of locations.
- Some persons with glaucoma prefer to use a human guide when traveling in unfamiliar places. To use a human guide effectively, grasp the guide’s arm firmly just above the elbow and walk a half a step behind. This positioning gives the most protection from potential obstacles and allows both people to function as a team.
- Get in the habit of consistently closing kitchen and bathroom cabinets, especially those above countertops. Make sure doors are either all the way open or shut. Practicing both of these safety techniques can greatly reduce the risk of head injury.
- Before reaching down to pick up dropped objects, place your hand, palm out, about 12 inches in front your face. This way, you’ll make sure you don’t hit the edges of tables or countertops with your forehead.
Remember, although glaucoma cannot be cured, it can be treated. Regular eye exams, especially for adults over 60, are critical to control the spread of the disease. For those who are affected by vision loss, it’s important to remember that the acquisition of some simple adaptive skills and techniques can help maintain safety and independence. Low Vision Focus@Hadley is dedicated to assisting persons with low vision to live life to the fullest all year long. For more information on how Low Vision Focus@Hadley can help you or someone you know, please visit our website www.lowvisionfocus.org, or call (855) 830-5355 to find out about our free programs and materials.
The Hadley School for the Blind
Low Vision Focus @ Hadley
January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. The National Eye Institute, through their education program NEHEP, have created this infographic to provide you with information you need to know about this blinding eye disease.
When adults reach their 40s, they often begin to notice small changes in their vision that can affect their daily lives and jobs. It could be difficulty in reading a book or working on a computer. This can be annoying, but it can often be addressed by seeing an eye care professional for comprehensive dilated eye exam. This allows the doctor to detect diseases and conditions that can cause vision loss and blindness and yet have no symptoms in their early stages.
Silent Thief of Sight – Glaucoma
Glaucoma is one of these age-related eye diseases that has no early symptoms, which is why it is called the silent thief of sight. It is actually a group of diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve and result in vision loss and blindness. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form disease.
In addition to an eye exam, you can reduce your chances of losing your vision to glaucoma by also:
- Live a healthy lifestyle that includes maintaining a proper weight, eating healthy foods, and not smoking.
- Know your family history to determine if you are at a higher risk for some eye diseases.
- Protect your eyes against harmful UV rays from the sun or your computer by wearing sunglasses when you are outdoors or computer glasses when using the computer for extended periods of time.
Susan DeRemer, CFRE
Vice President of Development
Discovery Eye Foundation
The Relationship Of Coffee And Glaucoma
Research shows that drinking caffeinated beverages, especially coffee, causes eye pressure to go up, even just one cup of coffee. The effect is highest in glaucoma patients and people at risk for glaucoma. However, eye pressure goes up only a small amount, so it is probably not a significant risk.
In some people, though, too much coffee may be causing damage. In people at risk for exfoliation glaucoma (a type of open angle glaucoma where some flake-like deposits are seen on the lens of the eye), drinking three or more cups of caffeinated coffee was associated with an increased risk of developing exfoliation glaucoma. The effect was strongest in women with a family history of glaucoma. This study doesn’t show that coffee causes glaucoma, but does suggest that drinking three or more cups of caffeinated coffee might not be good for your eyes.
One group of scientists applied caffeine eye drops directly on to healthy eyes, and they did not see any increase in eye pressure. This suggests that caffeine doesn’t appear to have a direct effect.
How can you best protect your eyes? Consider going decaffeinated or limit your caffeine consumption. If you are at higher risk for glaucoma or have been diagnosed, be sure to have regular comprehensive dilated eye exams, use medications as directed and see your eye care provider as scheduled.
For more information about glaucoma, visit www.nei.nih.gov/glaucoma.
The effect of caffeine on intraocular pressure: a systemic review and meta-analysis. Li M, Wang M, Guo W, Wang J, Sun X. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol 2011. 249(3):435-42.
Effect of caffeine on the intraocular pressure in patients with primary open angle glaucoma. Chandra P, Gaur A, Varma S. Clin Ophthalmol 2011. 5:1623-9.
The relationship between caffeine and coffee consumption and exfoliation glaucoma or glaucoma suspect: a prospective study in two cohorts. Pasquale LR, Wiggs JL, Willett WC, Kang JH. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2012. 53(10):6427-33.
Effects of caffeinated coffee consumption on intraocular pressure, ocular perfusion pressure, and ocular pulse amplitude: a randomized controlled trial. Jiwani AZ, Rhee DJ, Brauner SC, et al. Eye 2012 26(8):1122-30.
We have known for a long time that there is a genetic component to glaucoma, since having a family history of glaucoma is one of the most important risk factors for developing the disease. Glaucoma is actually a group of diseases, including some starting at birth or in childhood, as well as the more common types that happen in adults, such as primary open angle glaucoma.
In some of the glaucomas of childhood, scientists can trace the cause to a single gene. For example, mutations in the gene for myocillin can cause juvenile-onset open angle glaucoma. And there are genetic tests available for some of these genes. These genetic tests, however, are helpful only for a subset of glaucoma patients. For most glaucoma patients, these tests don’t give us the answers we need.
In the types of glaucoma that happen in adults, both environmental factors and genetic factors contribute to whether or not someone develops the disease. This complex interplay of factors makes testing only one gene or a handful of genes not as helpful. For diseases like adult-onset open angle glaucoma, instead of having just one gene that is mutated and causing the disease, there are many genes involved. All these genes contain tiny differences, some potentially helpful and some potentially harmful. It is an individual’s mix of genes combined with the lifetime of complex environmental exposures, that determines whether he or she will get the disease. In the future, genetic tests that incorporate this group of genes will help doctors, patients, and families better understand their susceptibilities, and hopefully lead to prevention of vision loss from glaucoma.
Genetic testing has the potential to offer a lot of benefits, but is not without risk and unintended consequences. Genetic counselors are trained to help patients, families, and doctors navigate these areas.
For more information about glaucoma, visit www.nei.nih.gov/glaucoma.
Genetics of primary glaucoma. AO Khan. Current Opinion in Ophthalmology. 2011. 22(5):347-55