Archive for July, 2010

Seniors in Joliet need awareness of glaucoma

It’s sneaky and it’s subtle. It’s referred to as “…the silent thief of sight.” “It” is glaucoma. Most types of glaucoma cause no pain and produce no symptoms. What glaucoma does do, however, is cause damage to the optic nerve. The main function of the optic nerve is sending electrical transmissions to the brain. Damage to it can lead to serious problems with vision that eventually lead to blindness.

Glaucoma is caused by increased pressure in the eye. This pressure is from a buildup of fluid, called aqueous humor, in the front of the eye. The elevated pressure is often extremely subtle with no symptoms until the disease has already caused significant damage.

In the U.S., approximately 2.2 million people age 40 and older have glaucoma, and of these, as many as 120,000 are blind, according to the American Health Assistance Foundation. An estimated 3.3 million of Americans could have glaucoma by the year 2020.

Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness among African Americans and Hispanics in the U.S. Three times as many African Americans have glaucoma than Caucasians, and four times as many are blind. Between the ages of 45 and 64, glaucoma is fifteen times more likely to cause blindness in African Americans than in Caucasians.

Because people may not know they have glaucoma, a simple and painless glaucoma test, performed by an ophthalmologist, is vital. These tests allow the doctor to measure pressure in the eye, examine the optic nerve, check the visual field and determine the fluid drainage angle in the eye.

According to seniormag.com, there are actually two major types of glaucoma – open angle and closed angle. Typically open angle glaucoma has no symptoms in its early stages and vision remains normal. As the optic nerve becomes more damaged, blank spots begin to appear in one’s vision, but such spots can be unnoticeable at first. If the optic nerve is significantly damaged, these spots become large. If all the optic nerve fibers die, blindness results.

Some eyes are formed with the iris too close to the drainage angle. In these eyes, which are often small and farsighted, the iris can be sucked into the drainage angle and block it completely. This is called closed-angle glaucoma. Since the fluid cannot exit the eye, pressure inside the eye builds rapidly and causes an acute closed-angle attack. Symptoms that occur suddenly can include blurry vision, halos around lights, eye pain, nausea and vomiting. Medical attention should be immediate.

Early detection is key

Early detection through eye exams, visual field tests and optic nerve imaging, and management through medications and laser treatments (to relieve eye pressure) are keys to preventing optic nerve damage and blindness from glaucoma.

Be aware

  • Everyone older than age 60 is at increased risk.
  • For certain population groups such as African-Americans, the risk is much higher, and they should have eye pressure monitored before age 30. Hispanic, Asian and Japanese Americans also face an increased risk. The reasons for these differences aren’t clear.
  • If there’s a family history of glaucoma, there is a much greater risk of developing it. A form of juvenile open-angle glaucoma has been clearly linked to genetic abnormalities.
  • Diabetes increases the risk of developing glaucoma. A history of high blood pressure, heart disease, or hypothyroidism can increase risk as well.
  • Severe eye injuries can result in increased eye pressure. Injury can also dislocate the lens, closing the drainage angle. Other risk factors include retinal detachment, eye tumors or eye inflammations.
  • Being nearsighted, which generally means that objects in the distance look fuzzy without glasses or contacts, increases the risk of developing glaucoma.
  • Using corticosteroids for prolonged periods of time appears to increase the risk of getting secondary glaucoma. This is especially true if someone uses corticosteroid eye drops.
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It’s ‘Too Darn Hot’ for Seniors in Joliet

Heat and humidity are a given in mid-summer, but if you’re a senior citizen, hot weather can be much more than just a nuisance. The body’s natural defenses against heat can break down with age, putting seniors at risk for heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and other serious disorders.

According to ahealthyme.com, several factors make senior citizens especially vulnerable to hot weather, according to. Older bodies can be slow to sense and respond to changes in heat, so seniors often don’t start sweating until their temperature has already soared. Even when the body’s cooling devices kick in, they probably don’t work as well as they used to. Sweat glands can grow less efficient with age, and other normal changes in the skin slow down the release of heat.

In addition, many common conditions can hamper an older person’s ability to regulate temperature, including diseases of the heart, lung, and kidneys; high blood pressure; diabetes; and other conditions that cause poor circulation. Finally, several medications commonly prescribed to seniors can affect the body’s ability to cool down. These include antidepressants, motion sickness drugs, and blood pressure medications.

For all of these reasons, it’s essential for seniors and their loved ones to understand the signs of dehydration, heat stroke and heat exhaustion, the most common forms of heat-related problems.

Dehydration occurs when a person loses more fluid than he or she takes in, and the body doesn’t have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions. There are serious consequences if the lost fluids are not replaced.

Common causes of dehydration include diarrhea, vomiting, fever or excessive sweating. Inadequate intake of water during hot weather also may cause dehydration. Anyone can become dehydrated, but young children, older adults and people with chronic illnesses are most at risk.

A person can usually reverse mild to moderate dehydration by increasing the intake of fluids, but severe dehydration needs immediate medical treatment. Of course, the safest approach is prevention. Monitor fluid loss during hot weather, illness or exercise, and drink enough liquids to replace what’s lost.

Heat exhaustion is a condition with symptoms that may include heavy sweating and a rapid pulse, a result of the body overheating. A cause of heat exhaustion includes exposure to high temperatures, particularly when combined with high humidity. Without prompt treatment, heat exhaustion can progress to heatstroke.

Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition that occurs when a person’s body temperature reaches 104 F (40 C) or higher. Heatstroke can be brought on by high environmental temperatures, by strenuous physical activity or by other conditions that raise the body temperature. Whatever the cause, immediate medical attention is required in order to prevent brain damage, organ failure or death.

Heatstroke is the escalation of two other heat-related health problems: heat cramps and heat exhaustion. In these conditions, a person develops signs and symptoms that are milder than those of heatstroke. Heatstroke can be prevented with medical attention or by taking self-care steps as soon as problems are noticed.

Heat waves are often deadly for seniors. Older people living in homes without air conditioning need to be checked at least twice a day when the temperature reaches 90 and above, according to ahealthyme.com.

The best way to stay cool during a heat wave is to stay indoors with the air conditioner on high. If there is no air conditioner, consider taking a trip to a cooling center, an indoor mall, library, or movies. A fan can help, but it can’t take the place of an air conditioner. If the temperature reaches the 90s, even the best fan may not protect a person from heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Seniors, when you do go outside on a hot day, use common sense. Drink more than you need to quench your thirst, and if you’re sweating heavily, choose fruit drinks or sports beverages to replace lost minerals.

Like the song from Kiss Me Kate says, “It’s Too Darn Hot.”

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