Treatment for Glaucoma

How to Treat Glaucoma in the Elderly

What People Over 60 Should Know About Glaucoma

Glaucoma, a condition in which pressure inside the eye results in vision loss, can cause permanent damage to the optic nerve. The condition occurs at much higher rates in people over the age of 60 and can occur painlessly, meaning that sometimes a person’s field of vision narrows significantly before they realize they have the condition. The good news for seniors is that testing can identify glaucoma early and an eye doctor can recommend a treatment regimen designed to minimize the effects. Even if your loved one has already experienced some vision loss, low-vision rehabilitation can help make the most of the vision he or she still has.

Common Types of Glaucoma

Glaucoma occurs in different forms, with different symptoms occurring for each type. The two most common manifestations of glaucoma are:

  • Open-Angle Glaucoma–Open-angle glaucoma begins with loss of peripheral vision. A person’s field of vision narrows slowly, sometimes imperceptibly, over time. It is caused by a gradual clogging of the eye’s drainage canals, causing increased pressure over time.
  • Angle-Closure Glaucoma–Angle-closure glaucoma occurs when the eye’s drainage canal becomes blocked. It happens quickly as pressure in the eye rises suddenly and requires immediate attention. Damage occurs very quickly with closed-angle glaucoma.

Risk factors for glaucoma include age, family history, hypertension, steroid use, eye injury, and nearsightedness.

How Do You Know If Your Elderly Loved One Has Glaucoma?

Because open-angle glaucoma has no identifiable symptoms early on, the best way to detect it is to get regular eye exams. People over the age of 60 should have vision tests every year to determine whether they may be developing glaucoma. Closed-angle glaucoma happens quickly and usually results in blurred vision, headaches, eye pain, nausea or vomiting, and acute vision loss.

What Can You Do To Help A Senior With Glaucoma?

If your elderly loved one has been diagnosed with glaucoma, there are several treatment options available. Talk to your eye doctor about which treatment will be best for your family member.

  • Medication–Your eye doctor may prescribe a regimen of eye drops or pills designed to reduce pressure in the eye and prevent further damage. Because it is essential that medication be taken at the prescribed intervals in order to be effective, an in-home caregiver may need to help elderly clients with their medication regiment.
  • Surgery–Laser surgery or conventional surgery may seek to open the channels in the eye, allowing proper drainage to occur and lowering pressure. Surgery may need to be repeated if pressure levels still remain too high.
  • Low Vision Rehabilitation–If vision loss has already occurred, seek the help of a vision training center or counseling center. Your loved one can learn to make the most of the vision still available to him or her using the latest technology and techniques.

There is no cure for glaucoma, but fortunately there are several treatment options that can help seniors slow down or stop vision loss. Regular visits to the eye-doctor can help identify the condition early and make the most of the treatments available.

Photo by andreaslindmark

Originally posted 2015-01-13 10:00:03.

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Joyce Apperson

Joyce Apperson is a Registered Nurse and Geriatric Care Manager with 15 plus years of experience working with advocating for seniors. She is the founder and President of Caring Connection, Inc., which provides in-home care and geriatric care management in Harford County, Baltimore County and Cecil County in Maryland. Joyce currently serves on the Harford County Advisory Board on Aging. In addition to writing articles here for the Caring Connection's blog, Joyce has been a regular contributor on senior care topics to the County Gazette.

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