Aging Gracefully: Why Regular Eye Exams Are Essential for Glaucoma Prevention

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As we get older, our bodies go through many changes - including changes to our eyes and vision. One potentially serious eye condition that becomes more common with age is glaucoma. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can lead to vision loss and blindness by damaging the optic nerve over time. While glaucoma is not curable, it is treatable if caught early through regular comprehensive eye exams.

Glaucoma is often called the "sneak thief of sight" because it progresses gradually with few noticeable symptoms until vision loss occurs.

The buildup of fluid and increased pressure inside the eye damages the optic nerve fibers, which carry visual information from the retina to the brain. By the time vision problems become apparent, permanent vision loss may have already occurred.

The best way to protect your vision from glaucoma is through early detection and treatment to control the progression of the disease. This is why regular comprehensive eye exams are so crucial, especially as we get older and the risk increases. An eye care professional can detect early signs of glaucoma through a comprehensive dilated eye exam before any vision loss occurs.

Some key risk factors for glaucoma include:

• Age (risk increases significantly after age 40)

• Family history of glaucoma

• African, Hispanic, or Asian ancestry

• Medical conditions like diabetes

• Previous eye injury

• Use of corticosteroid medications

The Glaucoma Research Foundation recommends an annual comprehensive eye exam for everyone starting at age 40, and earlier for those at higher risk. Early detection means glaucoma can usually be controlled through prescription eye drops, oral medications, laser treatment, surgery, or a combination of methods.

While glaucoma can't be prevented, its blinding effects can be avoided through proactive care. Don't let glaucoma rob you of your vision down the road - commit to regular comprehensive eye exams today to protect your sight as you age gracefully.

(Author: Dr Uma Malliah, Senior Consultant, Opthalmology, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi)

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