Glaucoma in summer
For many people, the arrival of summer is synonymous with holidays, hot weather and open-air activities. For patients with glaucoma, the season may bring a variety of challenges and lead to doubts that we hope to resolve in this post.
Glaucoma and sunlight
Ultraviolet light can cause damage to the eyes without the right protection. Light is reflected off surfaces like water or sand and can cause burns in the surface structures of the eye (the conjunctiva and the cornea). When there is exposure over a long period, damage to more internal structures, such as the crystalline lens or the retina, has been described.
The specific case of glaucoma also involves the sensitivity to light and the tendency to be dazzled that these patients usually experience. These symptoms may be considerably improved by wearing good-quality sunglasses and a double-brimmed or peaked hat.
Glaucoma and flying
Patients sometimes ask whether the changes in atmospheric pressure during a regular flight can affect glaucoma. In fact, changes in pressure inside the cabin are rigorously controlled these days and are made very gradually as the plane climbs and descends. As a result, the effect on eye pressure (intraocular pressure) is almost non-existent. However, these changes act on the volume of gas in the air, which could affect patients who have recently undergone retina surgery. Surgeons sometimes leave a gas bubble to keep the retina in its place. This may last for 6-8 weeks and can expand with altitude changes, increasing intraocular pressure suddenly.
In general, patients who have undergone retina surgery and who have received gas are advised that flying during these months is contraindicated. These gases are not used in glaucoma surgery and therefore such patients do not usually face restrictions when flying. In any event, it is best to ask the ophthalmologist before travelling, above all when surgery has taken place recently, in order to make sure.
In any case, the air inside the cabin is normally very dry. This means that it is recommendable to use artificial tears, especially in patients with glaucoma who take drops chronically and who show a greater tendency to suffer from dry eye. Likewise, we recommend that –just like any other medication- they always carry glaucoma drops in their hand luggage to avoid missing doses in the case of delays, longer flights or loss of luggage. The bottle should be closed to avoid spillages and kept in a cool place to avoid overheating.
Summer and glaucoma drops
Changes of locality can make adherence to the treatment more difficult and can lead to doubts about storing glaucoma drops. Most pharmaceutical companies recommend keeping the drops at 15-25ºC, so if we are travelling to warmer zones we should try to prevent the drops being exposed to direct sunlight and keep them in a cool place when we arrive at our destination. The instruction leaflet normally explains how a medicine should be kept. If you are still unsure, you can ask your chemist or find out on the website of the pharmaceutical company involved.
Picture: Lovely beach by Luke Ma.