Care Tips for Patients with Glaucoma
November 01 2018
Protecting Eyes from Serious Vision Loss
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve. The result is vision loss and even blindness. For those who have been seeing all their life, the thought of blindness or near blindness can be very scary. However, with proper treatment eyes can be protected against serious vision loss. There are several things you can encourage your patients with glaucoma to do that will help protect their vision from serious damage.
Follow Doctor’s Orders
The first is to make sure that your patient is following the doctor’s instructions on taking any prescribed drops, pills or other treatments. If a patient often forgets to take any prescribed medications, or think they are unnecessary, gently remind them that taking their medication as prescribed, is very important to guard the health of their eyes. Missing meds could make the glaucoma worse.
It is also important for you to know the side effects of your patient’s medications. Make sure to ask them if they are experiencing any of those effects and to tell the doctor right away if they are.
Glaucoma and the medications your patients take might make their eyes feel itchy. It is important to encourage them to fight the urge to rub their eyes. If they do, it can scratch their eyes and make things worse. If their eyes feel dry, consult with their doctor about dry eye drops first.
Encourage your patient to exercise, if possible. Routine exercise may help lower eye pressure and keeps the blood flowing to the nerves in the eyes. For those with other health conditions, the doctor or physical therapist may have some specialized exercises that have been prescribed. If no exercise plan has been prescribed yet, be sure to consult with the patient’s doctor first.
If your patient does yoga, they must be mindful of some of the positions. Some head-down moves where your heart is above your eye can raise eye pressure. They should avoid positions such as downward facing dog, plow, standing forward bend and legs up the wall.
While eating healthy won’t prevent the glaucoma from getting worse, it is key to keeping the body and eyes healthy. Encourage the patient to add foods high in antioxidants to their diet, such as dark leafy greens or fish that is packed with omega-3 fatty acids.
While quitting smoking is healthy for so many reasons due to the toll nicotine takes on the body, smoking also raises blood pressure and eye inflammation. This raises the risk of diabetes and cataracts, both of which are risk factors for glaucoma. It is key to encourage your patient to follow the doctor’s advice on how to quit smoking.
Have the patient decrease their caffeine intake by watching how much soda, coffee and tea they drink. Too much caffeine can raise eye pressure. Encourage your patient to switch to decaf coffee and tea and caffeine-free sodas.
Staying hydrated is a big part of staying healthy. Be sure to educate your patient on how to consume liquids. It is important to spread beverages throughout the day as drinking a lot in one sitting can strain your eyes. Encourage them to sip small amounts throughout the day, never having more than a quart at one time.
Elevate the Head
Encourage your patient to sleep with their head elevated. Keeping the head raised a little at night should help to lower eye pressure. If the patient doesn’t have an adjustable bed, make sure they use a wedge pillow. Consider working with them to help them find the most comfortable position that keeps the head elevated. By helping them do this, they will be more likely follow this advice on their own at bedtime, rather than a patient who comes to bed grumpy about having to change the position they sleep in and trying to figure it out on their own.
Protect the Eyes
It is important for the patient to protect their eyes while going about their daily routine. Make sure they wear sunglasses when outside. If they swim, make sure they wear goggles. It is also important to choose non-allergenic makeup and to replace items often.
By encouraging your patient to take their medications as directed by the doctor, as well as follow all these other tips, you can help your patient to defend their eyes against serious vision loss. Remember to also work with any family caregiver as well, so they can also encourage their loved one to follow these tips. You should also encourage any family caregiver to participate in any exercise regimen, diet changes or smoking cessation. This will give the patient a feeling of camaraderie while making any lifestyle changes.