Keeping Your Optic Nerve Healthy

optic nerveWhat is the optic nerve and what does it do?

The optic nerve is a bundle of nerve fibers that serves as the communication cable between your eyes and your brain. The nerve fibers have a special coating called myelin.

What are the most common eye diseases associated with impaired optic nerve?

Glaucoma is the most common optic nerve disease. Most cases of glaucoma are called “open angle glaucoma” where the intraocular pressure – IOP – is above normal. Normal eye pressure ranges from 12-22 mm/Hg for most people. Higher pressures can lead to damage to the optic nerve over time, resulting primarily in effecting peripheral vision. Glaucoma is often referred to as the “hidden thief” as there typically are no symptoms until the person suddenly realizes that their peripheral vision is reduced.

In a typical eye exam, the eye doctor will take the eye pressure, and check the health of the optic nerve as well. If there are any issues of concern, the eye doctor will also have the patient do a visual fields test to take a baseline measurement of the peripheral field.

Higher than normal eye pressures may result in the eye doctor recommending the daily application of medicinal eyedrops to reduce the eye pressure.

Chronic inflammation, poor circulation and diet, lack of exercise for example may lead to other optic nerve problems including optic neuritis and/or optic nerve atrophy. Multiple sclerosis may lead to optic nerve damage as well, at least partly due to the breakdown of the myelin sheath.

Glaucoma shares a number of features with degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Lou Gehrig’s disease. In these diseases, age and family history are major risk factors, and specific areas of the brain are damaged over time.

Why are nutrients critical for optic nerve health?

Although the conventional medical community views eye pressure management as the primary method for treating glaucoma, there are many studies that show diet, exercise, and healthy circulation play a critical role in optic nerve and eye health. Just as importantly, researchers have identified which nutrients are needed to maintain optimal health (as well as optic nerve healthy function) and which tend to be deficient in the body and eyes.

There are many cases of glaucoma where the eye pressure is in normal range or even low but damage to the optic nerve continues, partially because in our opinion, the optic nerve is starved for essential nutrients.

What are some of the essential nutrients to help support optic nerve health?

Alpha Lipoic Acid – 150mg – 300mg per day – is a powerful antioxidant and supports other antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E. It helps to raise glutathione levels within cells.  It has also been found to reduce neuronal damage due to over-stimulation by cyanide, glutamate, and iron ions, and protects nerve tissue.1

Bilberry. The anthocyanin antioxidants contained in bilberry have long been confirmed to benefit vision. The combination of bilberry and ginkgo biloba was found to be very helpful in a study involving over 300 patients with normal tension glaucoma. Another study finds that a combination of bilberry and French maritime pine bark (pycnogenol) could lower IOP up to 24%.2

Ginkgo biloba. Found to improve the visual field in some patients with normal-tension glaucoma,  ginkgo biloba supports vascular cell integrity, providing better delivery of antioxidants and nutrients to the optic nerve and related cell tissue.  3 4

Curcumin. Curcumin’s antioxidative capacity provides good protection for the nervous system, due to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and as well anti-protein clumping capacity.5

Vitamin B1 (thiamine). Glaucoma patients tend to have low levels of vitamin B1.6

Vitamin B6. A combination of B6, B9 and B12 helps to lower homocysteine levels that are linked to higher risk of developing glaucoma.7 This is taken in divided dosages with food, often part of a vitamin B complex formulation.

Vitamin B9 (folate form).  Supplementing with folate may be helpful to those with the pseudoexfoliation (PEX) form of glaucoma.

Vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin):  Supplementing with vitamin B12  may help protect vision in glaucoma patients.  8 9

Recommended Supplements to Review

  • Dr. Grossman’s Eye Pressure Support Formula with Mirtogenol Plus is a combination of antioxidants that support optic nerve health and help reduce intraocular pressure naturally.
  • Dr. Grossman’s Bilberry/Gingko Formula This combination of antioxidants helps strengthen the retina and integrity of blood vessels and capillaries and supports night vision. These antioxidants scavenge the body for free radicals, with the ability to prevent or reverse damaged cell
  • Dr. Grossman’s Herbal Coleus Ultra Formula includes coleus forskohlii and lycii berry. Coleus may help lower intraocular pressure (IOP) and blood pressure.
  • ReVision Formula is based on classic Liver tonic used in Chinese medicine to help promote healthy circulation and flow of energy in the eyes and whole body. In Chinese medicine, the Liver (meridian) “opens” to the eyes, so it the primary meridian that supports healthy vision.
  • Viteyes Optic Nerve Support Formula is a comprehensive combination of vitamins and antioxidants to help nourish and support the optic nerve.
  • Aminopro (Aminoguanidine) is an anti-glycating agent meaning that it inhibits the ‘cross-linking’ (or glycosylation) of proteins and has been shown to help protect the optic nerve from damage.

Related Books

Natural Eye Care Series: Glaucoma (74 page paperback book)

Combo: Glaucoma book and Optic Nerve Support Package

Natural Eye Care: Your Guide to Healthy Vision and Healing

For More Information

For more information email us at or call 845-475-4158

  1. Muller, U., Krieglstein, J. (1995). Prolonged pretreatment with alpha-lipoic acid protects cultured neurons against hypoxic, glutamate-, or iron-induced injury. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab, Jul;15(4):624-30.
  2. Steigerwalt, R.D., Belcaro, G., Morazzoni, P., Bombardelli, E., Burki, C. (2010). Mirtogenol potentiates latanoprost in lowering intraocular pressure and improves ocular blood flow in asymptomatic subjects. Clin Ophthalmol, 4:471–476.
  3. Quaranta, L., Bettelli, S., Uva, M.G., Semeraro, F., Turano, R., et al. (2003). Effect of Ginkgo biloba extract on preexisting visual field damage in normal tension glaucoma. Ophthalmology, 110:359–62.
  4. Quaranta, L., Bettelli, S., Uva, M.G., Semeraro, F., Turano, R., et al. (2003). Effect of Ginkgo biloba extract on preexisting visual field damage in normal tension glaucoma. Ophthalmology, 110:359–62.
  5. Cole, G.M., Teter, B., Grautschy, S.A. (2007). Neuroprotective effects of curcumin. Adv Exp Med Biol, 595:197–212.
  6. Asregadoo, E.R. (1979). Blood levels of thiamine and ascorbic acid in chronic open-angle glaucoma. Ann Ophthalmol, Jul; 11(7):1095-1100.
  7. Christen, W.G., Glynn, R.J., Chew, E.Y., Manson, J.E. (2007). Folic acid plus B-vitamins and age-related macular degeneration in a randomized trial in women. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci, 48:1152.
  8. Kang, J.H., Loomis, S.J., Wiggs, J.L., Willett, W.C., Pasquale, L.R. (2014). A Prospective Study of Folate, Vitamin B-6, and Vitamin B-12 Intake in Relation to Exfoliation Glaucoma or Suspected Exfoliation Glaucoma. JAMA Ophthalmol, May;132(5):549-59.
  9. Sakai, T. Murata, M., Amemiya, T. (1992). Effect of long-term treatment of glaucoma with vitamin B12. Glaucoma. 14 167-70.