Glaucoma Risk Factors

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Dr. Guy Eakin

In this audio presentation, Dr. Guy Eakin, Vice President of Scientific Affairs at the BrightFocus Foundation discusses the risk factors associated with glaucoma. In addition, he talks about how you can promote general eye health. This information is designed for anyone who has glaucoma or is caring for a family member or friend who has this eye disease.

  • Dr. Guy Eakin: Today, I'm talking about glaucoma, the leading cause of irreversible vision loss and ultimately blindness.

    Now, I'm going to talk about risk factors for glaucoma and things you can do to optimize the heath of your eyes. Although scientists have not yet discovered a way to prevent people from developing glaucoma, there are a few ways to promote general eye health through a healthy lifestyle.

    So talking about risk factors, glaucoma can occur in anyone at any age. However, certain factors may put some people more at risk for developing this condition than others. So among the highest risk factors are race. Glaucoma is a leading cause of permanent blindness among people of African, Hispanic, or East Asian descent.

    Genetics, other than the genetics of race, glaucoma also tends to occur repeatedly in families and so has additional genetic components. And lastly, age. The prevalence of glaucoma increases with age, especially in people over age 60 or younger in people with other elevating risk factors such as genetics or race.

    It's important for everyone, including those at risk for glaucoma, to develop a relationship with both a primary care doctor as well as an eye care provider. These people can assist you by developing exercise programs or providing nutritional counseling. Regular exercise, in combination with a nutritious diet, may benefit your overall physical and mental wellbeing as well as help optimize the heath of your eyes.

    Here are a few things that you may wish to discuss with your doctor. First, regarding nutrition, it's important to eat a varied and healthy diet. At this time, there is very little scientific evidence suggesting the specific dietary vitamins and minerals or supplements might prevent glaucoma or delay its progress.

    However, carotenoids, antioxidants and vitamins A and D, as well as zinc and the omega-3 fatty acids, may all contribute to better vision. In addition, limit caffeine intake to moderate levels. There's some evidence that suggest that high amounts of caffeine may actually increase the pressure in your eye which is a risk factor for glaucoma.

    Try to exercise daily. Aerobic activities such as walking, swimming, or even working in the yard are all recommended. Do not smoke. Countless studies point to the harm smoking does to your lungs and to your heart. So although researcher has not yet found a connection between glaucoma and smoking, there is scientific evidence that shows that other eye diseases, such as macular degeneration, are much more prevalent in smokers.

    All of this said, the best thing you can do to prevent vision loss is schedule regular visits with your eye care provider for comprehensive eye exams. Tell your doctor your family medical history and bring all of your medications, including eyedrops, vitamins, and supplements, with you to your doctor's visits.

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