As you get older, you may begin to worry about your eye health. Perhaps a recent examination showed increased pressure behind your eyes, or a family member was recently diagnosed with glaucoma. If you’re at risk, you may wonder how to prevent glaucoma.
To make an appointment, contact the UPMC Vision Institute at 412-647-2200.
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What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve. This nerve carries information from your eye to the brain, so when it’s damaged, you may lose your vision.
In fact, the American Academy of Ophthalmology indicates that by age 65, one in three Americans will have a vision-impairing eye disease. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the U.S. and among the leading causes of blindness worldwide.
While the exact cause of glaucoma is not known, increased pressure on the eye is frequently a factor. If left untreated, glaucoma can cause blindness.
Glaucoma Risk Factors
Some people face a higher likelihood of developing glaucoma. Glaucoma risk factors include:
- Family history of glaucoma
- Americans who are Black or Hispanic
- High eye pressure
- Being farsighted or nearsighted
- Suffering an eye injury
- Thin corneas
- Thinning of the optic nerve
- Other health conditions like diabetes, poor blood circulation, and migraines
Having more than one of these risk factors greatly increases a person’s likelihood of developing glaucoma.
Can You Prevent Glaucoma?
While there’s no way to prevent glaucoma, there are some steps you can take to delay the onset of the disease and decrease your risk of severe eye damage or blindness.
Schedule regular eye exams
The only way to diagnose glaucoma is by getting routine eye exams. During your eye exam, the doctor will check your eye pressure, conduct a glaucoma screening, inspect the drainage angle of your eye, check your optic nerve for damage, and test peripheral vision.
“Our first priority when you come in to see us is to make sure that we give you a comprehensive eye exam,” says Scott Drexler, OD, optometrist, UPMC Eye Care and Optical. “That includes dilating your eyes, looking at the back of your eyes, checking for glaucoma, checking for cataracts, checking for any kind of corneal disease — and not just things that are there now, but tendencies you might have for the future.
“So when you come in for a routine eye exam, we can get you to see the specialist that you need to see, and in a timely manner, too.”
People with no risk factors for glaucoma should get regular eye exams based on their age:
- Younger than age 40: every five to 10 years
- Age 40–54: every two to four years
- Age 55–64: every one to three years
- Age 65 and older: every one to two years
If you’re at a higher risk for developing glaucoma, talk to your doctor about how often you should be screened.
Reduce eye pressure
In some cases, if a patient has increased eye pressure, a doctor may prescribe special eye drops designed to reduce the pressure in the eye and delay the onset of glaucoma.
Some studies have shown that exercising is an effective way to reduce eye pressure, according to the Glaucoma Foundation. To that end, the Foundation recommends that patients with increased eye pressure walk or jog three or more times each week.
Prevent eye injuries
Another way to reduce your risk of glaucoma is to avoid eye injuries. That means protecting your eyes during home improvement projects, sports, or any other activity that could cause eye trauma.
While it’s unclear exactly what causes glaucoma — and you may not be able to prevent it completely — these steps can help ensure you have healthy eyes well into your senior years.
For more information about glaucoma screening and to make an appointment, contact the UPMC Vision Institute at 412-647-2200.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .
About UPMC Vision Institute
The UPMC Vision Institute is a national leader in the treatment of eye diseases and disorders. We seek to improve and restore your vision to help your quality of life, diagnosing and treating a wide range of conditions in both children and adults. Our treatments include both surgical and nonsurgical options. We also offer routine eye screenings and have full-scale optical shops. Find an eye expert close to you.