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Ask the health expert: stress, glaucoma

Created date

September 23rd, 2014

Q. Can stress and worry really affect my health?

A. Different types of stress affect people throughout their lives. For seniors, personal illness, financial worries, and the death of friends and family are common stressors. Even positive events such as the birth of a grandchild can cause your body to undergo stress. But whether it’s good or bad, research shows that ongoing (chronic) stress can in fact contribute to health problems. You may develop symptoms such as sleeplessness, digestive disturbances, and irritability. People who live with prolonged stress are prone to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, emotional disorders, and infections. An outbreak of shingles is particularly often the result of unhealthy stress. 

There are, however, many ways to cope with stress and protect yourself from negative effects of future stressful events. These include taking care of current health problems, exercising daily (gentle exercises such as tai chi can be especially beneficial), seeking support from friends and family, and scheduling time for relaxing activities every day. If you feel that stress in your life is becoming unmanageable, seek help from your doctor or a mental health professional.

Q. During my last eye exam, my doctor told me I have increased pressure in one eye. Does that mean I will develop glaucoma?

A. Not everyone who has increased eye pressure will develop glaucoma, but it does mean you are at an increased risk. Glaucoma is a group of diseases that affects the eye’s drainage system. When fluid can’t drain out, pressure builds up and damages the optic nerve. Some people are able to tolerate more pressure in the eye and may never get the disease. Regardless, follow your doctor’s advice about how to reduce your chances of glaucoma. Treatments may include tighter control of other medical conditions, or the use of drops to control eye pressure.

Health and wellness experts practice exclusively at Erickson Living communities all over the U.S. This month our expert is

Austin Welsh, M.D., 

Medical Director, Tallg... Creek

Overland Park, Kans.

Dr. Welsh received a bachelor’s degree from Yale University in New Haven, Conn., and his medical degree from The Boonshoft School of Medicine in Dayton, Ohio. He completed a residency in family medicine at St. John’s Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, Mo. Welsh is board-certified in family practice with added qualifications in geriatric medicine; he trained at the geriatrics fellowship program at the John A. Burns School of Medicine in Honolulu, Hawaii. He joined Tallgrass Creek in October 2007.