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Over 200,000,000 people around the world have glaucoma. About 1.5% of the world's population has the more progressive form of the disease known as open-angle glaucoma, and about 0.7% of the world's population (but 1.3% of the population of China) has the more quickly debilitating form of the disease known as closed-angle glaucoma.
Left untreated, elevated intraocular pressure (eye pressure) destroys the optic nerve and steals sight, sometimes in less than a year, more usually over several years.
There aren't really any deep, dark secrets of glaucoma treatment doctors are hiding from the patients. There just isn't enough time in most office visits to convey some essential facts about glaucoma that can save your sight. Here are a few of them.
It isn't just old people who get glaucoma.
Even if you have perfect vision now, you could have glaucoma. People of African or Chinese descent are especially susceptible to the disease, as are men, people who are nearsighted, people who use steroids (such as asthma inhalers or cortisone), diabetics, and people over 50. Chinese people are twice as likely to develop glaucoma, and African-Americans are six times as likely to develop the disease. But everyone should have an eye exam every year, more often if you have a history of glaucoma in your family. Glaucoma runs in families.
Exercise can reduce eye pressure.
The effects of exercise aren't enough to cure glaucoma, but they can reduce eye pressure enough to slow it down. Aerobic exercise such as jogging, swimming, and tennis done just 30 minutes a day 3 days a week can lower IOP up to 20%--which makes a difference. Yoga poses that require standing on your head and scuba diving are to be avoided because they put pressure on the eyes.
Pressure on the neck increases eye pressure.
Tight collars and neckties increase eye pressure and glaucoma risk.
Not everyone who has glaucoma has elevated intraocular pressure.
The fact that you don't have elevated eye pressure doesn't mean you are free from glaucoma.
Some of the 40 types of glaucoma are caused by poor circulation to the optic nerve.
You won't notice changes in your vision until the disease has already caused permanent damage to your optic nerve.
Glaucoma usually damages peripheral (side-to-side) vision rather than central (straight-ahead) vision, at least at first. You can't check your peripheral vision (side-to-side vision) on your own. A doctor has to conduct a field of vision test to assess your peripheral vision, as well as measure your IOP (intraocular pressure) and look at your optic nerve.
Lowering your blood pressure won't lower your eye pressure.
Blood pressure and IOP aren't tied to each other--but you should still do everything you need to do to keep your blood pressure as nearly normal as possible.