Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness for those ages 65 years and older. To wit, more than one million Americans over the age of 65 will experience peripheral vision loss due to this group of diseases, with an additional 75 percent of those same persons eventually being deemed legally blind due to the disorder. Glaucomas in older persons occur slowly over time and may prove asymptomatic, which makes annual eye tests a necessity in order to prevent irreversible blindness.
Glaucoma in and of itself is not a singular disease so much as a group of disorders that result in optic nerve damage. The optic nerve is crucial in relaying light signals from the eye’s retina to the brain. Glaucomas are most frequently associated with excessive eye pressure when the anterior chamber is unable to clear fluid. The main types of this disorder in older adults include low-tension, normal-tension, angle-closure, secondary, pigmentary and pseudoexfoliation glaucoma.
There are very rarely any symptoms associated with glaucoma, but when they do occur, they can include intense eye pain, nausea or a headache. In this case, however, the event constitutes a medical emergency and is normally only seen in closed-angle glaucomas.
As a glaucoma takes shape, the older person will see a winnowing of their vision with increased tunneling. If the progression of the disease is not slowed or stopped, they may left completely blind.
The family of disorders associated with glaucoma, or an increased inability of the eye to relieve pressure on the optic nerve, is frequently asymptomatic. This means that over time, a person may only slightly notice a tunneling of their vision or the loss of their peripheral vision.
Given the importance of sight to daily life and quality of life, the affected person may no longer be able to drive, read or write. Minor tasks and just getting around the house may grow increasingly difficult or dangerous depending on how far along the disorder has progressed. Older persons are strongly cautioned to be on the lookout for times where they may bump into items they did not see and immediately schedule an optometry appointment so as to slow the progression of the glaucoma. Early detection is critical in restoring some daily function, given that the added eye pressure permanently damages this critical nerve with subsequent impacts to visual cues.
In cases where the disease is acute, older folks will experience nausea and blurred vision, which means an immediate trip to emergency care is in order to avoid permanent vision loss.
Those who have an undiagnosed glaucoma may experience no symptoms, or, in the event of a medical emergency, the following signals or signs:
Medical alert devices and fall detection services are a great means by which to return some freedom to the older person with glaucoma. Folks may not be able to correct their vision to a suitable level, but could leverage different tools and devices to enable them to move around their homes in a safe manner.
Depending on the amount of vision loss or impairment, older adults could experience significant issues with their depth perception, visual acuity, sensitivity to glare or ability to detect objects on the fringes of their gaze. This all means that having the ability to push a button in the event of a trip or spill could mean getting you back on your feet faster and avoiding more significant issues, such as a broken hip or torn ligament.
Older persons are very capable and may grow accustomed to their visual impairments, with no need for a fall detection device or similar medical alert system. Still, there are other means by which to maximize an older adult’s freedom in and around the home.
Older folks are resilient, especially in the face of disabilities, increased immobility or vision loss. That said, there are times when seniors may want to get out and about or simply get around their homes without having to worry about what could be outside of their field of vision. Medical alert devices and fall detection services are a great means by which to free an older person’s mind of such worry, and to subsequently boost their freedom, quality of life and overall health.
If such assistance is considered unwarranted, though, then an older person experiencing vision loss should still take time to outfit their home with depth-perception tape, or consider learning how to get about with a white cane, as some glaucomas can result in blindness. Ultimately, and as with all things, the decision to invest in a medical alert device is entirely up to the patient.