5 Tips for Living Better with Glaucoma
If you are one of 80 million people worldwide who has been diagnosed with glaucoma, it’s important to know that you can take steps to slow or prevent its progression, especially if it is detected early.
Ophthalmologist Jithin Yohannan of the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins Medicine explains that, while in some patients glaucoma can lead to irreversible blindness, lifestyle changes and medication can reduce its impact. He shares these tips that you can do on your own and with the help of others to live better with glaucoma.
Adhere to Medications
You may need to take a variety of eyedrops throughout the day to manage your glaucoma. Maintain a schedule to take the proper dosage on time.
Set alarms and alerts on devices you keep close, such as your cellphone, watch, computer or tablet for reminders throughout the day. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have any problems with your medications and dosages. “Strict adherence to medication is the single most important thing a patient with glaucoma can do to keep their vision from worsening,” Yohannan says.
Avoid Falls and Accidents
In some patients, glaucoma may increase the risk of falling and accidents due to loss of side vision. It is important to clearly mark boundaries in your home. Areas such as doorways, drawers, counters and table edges can be identified with bright or contrasting colored tape or paint. Organize commonly used utensils and appliances in areas where they are easily accessible.
Be sure to use a technique called scanning. Scanning involves a careful look at your surroundings by moving your head from left to right and top to bottom in order to cover your entire field of vision before walking. This can help identify things such as steps and other objects that might be missed along the journey.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Exercise can improve the health of the eye as well as the rest of your body. Exercising several times per week can be very beneficial, but be sure to consult with your doctor about your exercise routine.
“While working out is great, you may want to avoid exercises such as yoga positions that require your head to be below your heart or lifting very heavy weights,” Yohannan says. “These are associated with increased eye pressure, which is an important risk factor for the worsening of glaucoma.”
People with low vision may find reading challenging, but there are tools that can help. Handheld magnifying devices enhance labels or text in books. Audiobooks allow you to enjoy books without having to read. Online audio readers do the same for browsing the internet. Most web browsers allow the font size and contrast on your computer or tablet to be adjusted to make it easier to read.
Embrace Your Support Team
Seek help from friends and family for transportation and other means of support. A support team can help with many of the above tips, including medication management and healthy habits.
Most importantly, stay in contact with your glaucoma care team with regular checkups, and keep them up to date on the status of your condition. They can help best manage your treatment plan when needed or involve other eye care teams, such as a low vision specialist, for rehabilitation.
“Glaucoma is often a very manageable disease,” Yohannan says. “The vast majority of patients will not go blind from glaucoma if they maintain good follow-up with their care team and follow their recommendations.”