4 Things You Might Not Know About Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a complex eye problem that results in progressive damage to the optic nerve.  Most of the time, we can control glaucoma by lowering the eye pressure with either eye drops or laser therapy.  Sometimes, glaucomatous damage progresses despite what is considered well-controlled eye pressure.  When this situation occurs, we must ask ourselves four questions…


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We all know the importance of controlling high blood pressure.  High blood pressure can cause devastating health problems including stroke and heart disease.  But, sometimes in our zeal to control blood pressure, we can go a little overboard.  The pressure is needed to pump blood into the optic nerve.  If the blood pressure is lower than the eye pressure, blood has a hard time getting to the optic nerve resulting in increased optic nerve damage.  This is especially true at nighttime.  There is a simple way to see if your blood pressure might be too low.  The medical term is orthostatic hypotension, which simply means that you get very lightheaded when you stand up too quickly.  This may result from several conditions, but the overly aggressive treatment of blood pressure is not uncommon.  If you find yourself getting very lightheaded when you stand up too quickly, contact your doctor immediately.


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Just like too little blood pressure can affect the optic nerve, so can too little oxygen.  A condition known as sleep apnea can adversely affect glaucoma.  Sleep apnea results in an obstruction of your airway while sleeping.  Signs and symptoms may include snoring, daytime sleepiness, and headaches.  The diagnosis is made in a sleep lab and is treatable.  If you have poorly controlled glaucoma with “normal” intraocular pressure, it might be worth getting tested for sleep apnea.  Make sure to discuss this with your doctor.


This may seem like a no-brainer.  Just like orthostatic hypotension causes low blood flow to the eyes, hanging upside down puts a tremendous increase in your eye pressure.  You can feel the blood rushing to your head along with increasing pressure in your head while inverted.  Activities such as head down position yoga, inversion therapy for back issues, standing on your head, and even hanging upside down on thrill rides can adversely affect glaucoma.  Most of the time, people with glaucoma can do these activities with no problem.  But, if you have poorly controlled, progressive glaucoma, make sure to tell your doctor.


Just like hanging upside down can raise the pressure in your eyes, so can playing a woodwind or brasswind instrument.  The fluid inside of the eye that maintains intraocular pressure eventually drains for the eye in the venous system.  When the pressure in the veins is very high, intraocular fluid has trouble leaving the eye, resulting and an increase in eye pressure and possible damage to the optic nerve.  Just because you have glaucoma is not a reason to quit playing your favorite instrument.  However, if your glaucoma is not well controlled, be sure to discuss this with your eye care professional.

If you should experience any of these symptoms, call immediately! 269-459-8900

This newsletter does not constitute medical advice.  Make sure to contact your healthcare provider if you experience any of these conditions.  Do not make any changes to your medications before consulting your physician.

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