Many older people don’t know they have eye disease glaucoma, study finds

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A Sneaky Eye Problem

Glaucoma is like a thief in the night for your eyes. You may not know you have it until a lot of damage has already been done.

It affects the nerve in the back of your eye and can eventually lead to blindness. A recent study in Sweden shows that a lot of older people have this eye issue and don’t even know it.

What the Study Tells Us

The research was part of a big project called the H70 study. It has been going on for 50 years and focuses on the health of older people.

This time, eye doctors checked the eyes of 560 people who are 70 years old. What they found was surprising. Almost 5% of these 70-year-olds have glaucoma.

Even more surprising, half of them had no clue they had this eye issue until they were part of the study.

Lena Havstam Johansson, who led the research, found this really important. She said, “Half of those who turned out to have glaucoma were diagnosed because they took part in the study.”

That means a lot of people can now start treating the problem before it gets worse. Usually, the treatment is easy. Just a daily eye drop can help lower the pressure inside the eye. This slows down the damage to the nerve.

Why People Didn’t Know

You might wonder why so many people didn’t know they had glaucoma. The answer is that in the early stages, it’s hard to notice. Your good eye picks up the slack for your bad eye, so you might think you’re seeing just fine.

This study tells us that a lot of people who are just diagnosed have normal eye pressure. So, you can’t just rely on that to know if you have glaucoma or not.

The Family Connection and Everyday Life

If someone in your family has glaucoma, watch out—you’re more likely to get it, too. This study backs that up. It also shows that having glaucoma doesn’t mean your whole life takes a nosedive.

People with this eye issue were just as active and happy as those without it. They weren’t more likely to smoke or drink alcohol either.

But, there’s a catch. People with glaucoma said that their daily life was a bit harder. It’s more difficult for them to climb stairs, notice things on the sides, and see curbs in the evening.

This could mean they might skip going out or visiting friends, choosing to stay at home instead.

What This Means for You

First off, if you’re getting up there in age, especially if you’re around 70 or have family members with glaucoma, get your eyes checked regularly.

Even if you think you see fine, you might catch this sneaky thief of an eye problem early on. Catching it early could mean you get to keep your good vision for many more years.

Second, if you or someone you know is diagnosed with glaucoma, it’s not the end of the world. Life can still be good.

But knowing that you have it allows you to start treatment and take steps to keep your eyes as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

This study opens our eyes—literally—to the hidden problem of glaucoma among older people. So, keep an eye out for your eye health, and encourage your older relatives to do the same.

If you care about eye health, please read studies about The growing problem of diabetic eye disease in the US and findings of The mystery of vision loss: the role of fats in eye health.

For more information about eye disease, please see recent studies about how to protect your eyes from glaucoma, and results showing this eye surgery may reduce dementia risk.

The research findings can be found in Acta Ophthalmologica.

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