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What Seniors and Caregivers Need to Know about Glaucoma

Even though it is the second leading cause of blindness, few people know about glaucoma. Seniors are especially at risk and need to know the facts.

More than 3 million people in the US have glaucoma. Many are seniors. Many don’t know they have the condition. However, this symptomless disease can be stopped before it does more damage.

The month of January is a time for spreading information about health problems. Glaucoma is one such disease. Many people are aware that glaucoma affects eyesight, but few have the facts straight. Since glaucoma can be very serious and affects many seniors, it is important to learn about this “sneaky thief of sight.” (

What You Need to Know about Glaucoma

What is Glaucoma?

The term “glaucoma” actually describes different kinds of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve. Some examples of types of glaucoma include:

  • Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma
  • Angle-Closure Glaucoma
  • Secondary Glaucoma
  • Normal Tension Glaucoma

Each kind of glaucoma has its own unique features. All are related to pressure in the eye. Most progress gradually and subtly. As a result, many people experience no symptoms.

How Serious is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is considered a sneaky disease because it presents with so few symptoms. However, the disease is serious. If left untreated, glaucoma causes vision loss and eventually blindness.

Acute types of glaucoma are the exception and are also serious. They are accompanied by sudden, severe symptoms like redness, nausea, and severe pain with blurriness or visual disturbances. Emergency treatment is necessary to prevent blindness.

Who is at Risk for Glaucoma?

Individuals who meet the following criteria have an elevated risk of this disease:

  • Age 60 or older
  • African-American or Hispanic-American
  • History of eye problems
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Regular use of corticosteroids

How is Glaucoma Diagnosed?

Since glaucoma often presents with no symptoms unless the disease is acute, doctors make their diagnosis based on several tests. Medical tests for glaucoma include:

  • Tonometry (internal pressure)
  • Pachymetry (corneal thickness)
  • Perimetry (vision range and scope)
  • Comparisons over time (photos of the optic nerve)

What are Treatment Options for Glaucoma?

Prescription eye drops are the main treatment for glaucoma. They must be administered correctly and regularly, according to a doctor’s directions. In severe cases, glaucoma can be treated with prescription medications or surgery.


Helping Seniors with Eye Health

Since glaucoma is a serious disease, it is important for seniors and their caregivers to take steps to monitor for and treat the condition. Seniors often need help in this process.

1. Encourage Regular Eye Checks

Seniors often experience some degree of vision loss as they age. Many are not alarmed or do not notice. As a result, many seniors do not see their eye doctor regularly.

In order to monitor for glaucoma and other eye problems, seniors should have an annual eye exam. Encourage seniors to attend their exams faithfully. It can be helpful to offer a ride since many seniors struggle with driving for a few hours after eye exams that require dilation.

2. Complete Treatment Properly

The main treatment for glaucoma is an eye drop prescription. Due to tremors, vision issues, and other health problems, seniors may have difficulty administering their drops themselves. Memory challenges can also cause seniors to forget this important part of their routine. Caregivers can help by offering reminders and even administering eye drops according to doctors’ directions.

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Did You Know?

Currently, glaucoma is not classified as a fully preventable or curable disease. However, glaucoma can be treated to prevent the disease from doing more damage.

Home Care Tip:

For seniors with vision loss (including sight problems due to glaucoma) everyday tasks can be challenging. is a website that offers inventive and practical resources and tools to help with these issues.

Ted Wolfendale

Administrator at Dial-a-Nurse
Mr. Wolfendale is a graduate of Stetson University, and Stetson University School of Law, and was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1988. He is admitted to practice in the Middle district of Florida, is an active member of the Florida Health Law section, and Lee County Bar Association.

In 1995 he became Administrator of Dial-a-Nurse nursing agency, the oldest nursing agency in the Southwest Florida succeeding his mother who started the company 37 years ago. He is also President of Nevco, Inc., an educational healthcare training company begun in 1988.

Mr. Wolfendale has worked with the U.S. Department of Commerce on various Missions to improve the quality of life around the world by development of supportive healthcare programs. In 2005 he traveled with U.S. officials and addressed the Italian National Government assisting in the creation of Nurse Education mandates for that Country. In 2006 he was invited and spoke with the National Institutes of Continuing Education in Eastern Europe on healthcare education and developmental mandates, and most recently represented the United States at the European Union in Lake Balaton, Hungary in 2011. In 2014 he traveled with the U.S. Department of State to Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam in an effort to improve caregiver knowledge and training.

Mr. Wolfendale has worked with a number of non-profits in contributing and creating curriculum to improve the quality of life in third-world countries since 2001, and notably created a successful program in Odessa, India that has been modeled in other areas of the world. In his backyard, he has worked with local Goodwill Industries to provide curriculum and training to underserved individuals who have obtained employment as a result of educational training. He was the Congressional appointment to the Governor's purple ribbon task force in 2013, and has worked to educate caregivers in all aspects of Alzheimer's training.