A study has found that a type of glaucoma called “low-tension” may be helped using gingko biloba extract, a natural supplement.
At the optometrist’s office, a puff of air is one of the ways patients are screened for glaucoma risk. This test measures intraocular pressure (IOP). When the tension in the eye is high (ocular hypertension), the patient receives further tests for glaucoma. Glaucoma is a progressive eye disease that damages the optic nerve, leading to serious vision loss and blindness.
However, around 20% of patients with glaucoma have low-tension glaucoma. Their IOP is normal, but their optic nerve becomes increasingly damaged over time.
Glaucoma is not fully understood, however, it is thought to be related to reduced ocular blood flow.
The study, published in the Journal of Glaucoma in 2012, examined whether taking gingko biloba extract affected the progression of low-tension glaucoma versus controls over approximately 12 years. The 42 patients received treatment for their glaucoma, as well as 80 mg of gingko biloba extract twice per day. The researchers found that while the patients’ IOP did not change much, their vision was not as damaged as the controls who did not receive gingko biloba. Their central vision loss slowed most noticeably. The researchers concluded that gingko biloba extract may be a suitable adjunct to low-tension glaucoma therapy.
Gingko biloba is extracted from a tree native to China. This tree is considered to be a “living fossil” because it has no close relatives. Fossil have been found of similar planets dating back 270 million years. The tree has been widely cultivated for millennium, and used for food and traditional Chinese medicine. Studies have been conducted on the effects of gingko biloba extract on Alzheimer’s disease, blood flow and microcirculation, and more.
Note: Certain other natural approaches to dealing with glaucoma have been studied. Even a basic walking regimen can help, as well as certain supplements. See our Glaucoma page for more information. Also see our suggestions for reducing your vulnerability to eye disease.
Source: Lee J et al. Effect of Ginkgo biloba extract on visual field progression in normal tension glaucoma. Journal of Glaucoma