The winter weather’s affect on vision diseases, such as glaucoma.

The cold, blistery winter weather often comes with many troubling side effects for our health and our bodies―a brutal winter cold from the drastic change in temperature and climate, dry, cracking skin from the lack of moisture in the air, and even dry eyes from the harsh winter winds whipping around outside. Luckily, depending what type of holiday aliment you may be suffering from this winter, there is a good chance that your symptoms may vanish right along with the snow once the weather clears up.

However, when it comes to some lasting health problem, the winter weather may actually trigger certain side effects or even worsen a pre-existing condition. This is just the case with one particular vision problem that affects many people across the country―glaucoma.

Glaucoma is an eye disorder which occurs when the optic nerve suffers damage, permanently damaging vision in the affected eye(s) and possibly progressing to complete blindness if it is left untreated. Because this loss of vision typically occurs gradually over a long period of time, it is often only recognized once the disease is quite advanced. Once lost, this damaged visual field cannot be recovered.

Because glaucoma affects so many people―it is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States and it affects one in 10 people over the age of eighty―it is important to understand the winter’s significant side effects on glaucoma symptoms and just what you should do to ensure that your glaucoma does not worsen over the holiday season. Here are just a few ways in which the winter weather can affect your glaucoma:

Eye Pressure

The pressure in our eyes is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm hG). A normal eye pressure range is between 12-21 mm Hg, and an eye pressure of greater than 22 mm Hg is often considered higher than normal, which can also be a sign of glaucoma. While eye pressure alone does not cause glaucoma, it is a significant risk factor.

This is dangerous during the winter months because many studies have shown that eye pressure can increase in extreme temperatures (both hot and cold). For instance, during winter, oxygen particles in the air condense when the weather drops, causing a slight increase in pressure  in our bodies and on our vision.

Fitness Failings

While any lack of physical fitness alone will not directly affect glaucoma, the secondary effects that comes with lack of exercise and fitness during the winter season can have a noticeable impact on your glaucoma symptoms.

For instance, many studies show that regular aerobic exercise can help to reduce eye pressure, and is critical for dealing with glaucoma risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes. During the holiday season, when many people are eating more and exercising less, this behavioral change can have a big impact on your eye health.

Regardless of whether or not you suffer from glaucoma, the winter season always presents a good opportunity to have your eyes examined and checked for any possible complications or unknown problems. After all, the winter season also means the start to a fresh, brand new year. Make sure you are starting 2012 with the best vision possible.


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