Senior Health Tips

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Bozeman Health is proud to provide compassionate, comprehensive geriatric care for our patients and community! We are pleased to share topics of interest about health in aging. As we age, many questions can arise as to what body changes are within the normal and what changes may need medical attention. Today I will be discussing two eye sight changes, risk factors, and when to see a medical provider.  

The most common age-related eye disease that can affect vision permanently is glaucoma. Glaucomais damage to the optic nerve usually from increased pressure in the eye. Left untreated this can cause permanent vision loss. There are two primary types of glaucoma:open-angle glaucoma is a chronic, slow onset type and the other is a more rapid, acute onset called angle-closure glaucoma.  

Open-angle glaucoma is more common and because of its slower onset can be harder to recognize. It typically presents with gradual reduction in peripheral vision (aka having tunnel vision) that slowly encroaches on central vision. Because our central vision accounts for our visual acuity (the number you get at the eye doctor, i.e., 20/20 vision) many people have no symptoms of glaucoma at all and it is only found on routine ophthalmology examination. Many people have lost 10 to20% of their peripheral vision by the time of diagnosis without recognizing symptoms. Once this vision is lost, it cannot be recovered.   

Tip #1:Get an annual comprehensive eye exam unless your eye doctor tells you every other year is sufficient.   

Angle-closure glaucoma is different. People do have symptoms. The human body is full of holes that drain fluids. You’ve probably noticed this by now and the eye is no exception. The eye has a chamber that allows it to drainexcess fluid from the eyeball. If the angle of this chamber gets narrowed or closed, then the pressure builds up in the eye quickly and can causechange in vision, eye pain, headache, nausea, and/or vomiting. Depending on how much this angle is closed is a direct correlation to how quickly the pressure builds up and symptoms develop. Angle-closure glaucoma symptoms often occur in the evening.  

Tip #2:If you have any change to your eye that involves decreased vision, halos in your vision, severe eye pain, or red eye, get help immediately!   

It’s important to know that there are treatments for both types of glaucoma.Both types can be treated with eye drops that decrease the pressure in your eye, thereby taking pressure off the optic nerve which protects your vision. These are very common. There are also eye surgeries that can create new holes to drain fluid if yourshave closed.   

You might be wondering what causes these two types of glaucoma and what can you do for prevention.   

Risk factors for open-angle glaucoma include: family history of open-angle glaucoma, age 65 or older, Black or Hispanic ancestry, hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, history of prior vitreoretinal surgery, and hypothyroidism.  

Risk factors for angle-closure glaucoma include: family history of angle-closure glaucoma, age 60or older, female sex, being farsighted, of Asian or Inuit descent, pseudoexfoliation (a condition that causes abnormal flaky deposits on eye surfaces) and certain medications.  Ask your eye doctor at your annual visit if you are on any concerning medications for glaucoma and if you are,you can discuss the pros and cons of that medication with your eye doctor and your primary care doctor to determine if the benefit outweighs the risk. 

There are many variables in these lists that we cannot control but, as your geriatric primary care team, we’re here to work with you on what we can do.  

Tip #3 You’ve heard this tip before; it probably won’t surprise you: eat a balanced dietand move your body in ways that feel good to you.Controlling cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar through your daily activities is one of the best things we can all do for our overall health, including our eyes.  

Every month, the Bozeman Health geriatric careteam will share information on healthy aging and ways to manage your health and wellbeing. 

This month’s column is written by Amy Wagner, nurse practitioner, with Bozeman Health Geriatrics. 

 Our dedicated geriatric team is comprised of physicians, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, social workers and nurses’ that care for patients. For more information on geriatric care, contact 406-414-2400.   

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