Glaucoma is an eye disease typically associated with high intraocular pressure, but managing glaucoma is more than decreasing eye pressure. Some cases of glaucoma have normal or low intraocular pressure. Natural approaches to glaucoma care, in addition to standard ophthalmology, can help reduce vision loss. The purpose of treatment is to slow down the damage. What are the symptoms of glaucoma? What causes it? How is glaucoma detected? What is the prognosis? How can decreasing intraocular pressure help? And how can you try to reduce vision loss?
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve. Peripheral or side vision gradually decreases. This disease can lead to total blindness if left untreated. Most glaucoma patients are seniors. Glaucoma tends to run in families. In the US, African Americans over the age of 40 are at a higher risk. So are seniors over age 60, especially Mexican Americans.
Unfortunately, glaucoma symptoms are subtle until significant damage is done. That is why glaucoma is referred to as the “silent thief” as typically there are no symptoms until one notices that there is less peripheral vision. Until this happens, only a dilated eye exam can accurately detect glaucoma. Therefore, regular dilated eye exams are crucial.
Air Puff Screening
The optician or eye doctor includes screening for glaucoma in most exams. A small puff of air into each eye measures intraocular pressure. Higher-than-normal eye pressure is a red flag for glaucoma. The doctor will follow up with regular comprehensive eye exams. If the patient has optic nerve damage, the eye doctor will most likely prescribe medicated eye drops to slow the progression. In some cases, surgery can help.
Narrow Angle – An Emergency
An uncommon but urgent type of glaucoma is called “Narrow Angle.” The angle between the iris and cornea becomes too narrow, causing significant fluid build-up. Sudden red eye, headache, visual halos, and sometimes nausea/vomiting requires an emergency room visit.
A person with higher-than-normal intraocular pressure but no nerve damage is called a “glaucoma suspect.” Others may fit in this category even if the eye pressure is normal or low. For example, the eye doctor may have detected other possible symptoms such as the optic nerve looking thin or “cupped” more than normal, or if peripheral vision worsens from one exam to the next. Get regular eye exams and follow the doctor’s instructions. Glaucoma suspects can benefit significantly from our nutritional support and lifestyle changes to head off this serious eye disease.
The most common type of glaucoma is called “Open Angle.” The trabecular meshwork at the front of the eye becomes clogged. Fluid cannot flow out easily, and filtering is impaired. Just like a dam, the fluid pressure builds up. This leads to high intraocular pressure. Poor blood circulation and insufficient nutrition to the optic nerve may also be involved. We recommend our complementary protocol to Open Angle glaucoma patients.
About a quarter of glaucoma patients have normal or low intraocular pressure. However, the eye doctor can tell. Similar to Open Angle Glaucoma, low tension glaucoma leads to optic nerve damage. The problem appears to be associated with poor circulation and/or lack of essential nutrients reaching the optic nerve. The optic nerve is starved of blood and essential nutrients.
Other Types and Causes
A long list of conditions can lead to optic nerve damage. Secondary Glaucoma is a side effect of injuries, inflammation, or drugs (steroids). Some babies are born with incomplete optic drainage systems.
Controlling Eye Pressure
The medical community accepts that reducing eye pressure is key to controlling open angle glaucoma. The most common therapy for reducing IOP is glaucoma eye drops. Some patients may benefit from eye surgery, especially as the disease progresses.
Patients with higher-than-normal intraocular pressure (IOP) slow down glaucoma’s progress by reducing their IOP. This makes complete sense due to the following:
- The eye has a high pressure reading
- Apply therapies such as special eye drops and surgery
- The eye pressure reading decreases
- The rate of optic nerve damage decreases
- Glaucoma is controlled
What about glaucoma patients with normal intraocular pressure? An important 1998 study on normal-tension glaucoma patients1 compared reducing IOP to no treatment. Normal-tension glaucoma patients who received treatment to reduce IOP had less nerve damage progression over time.
Therefore, both of the most common types of Open Angle glaucoma respond to the same treatment: reduce IOP.
Natural Approaches to Reducing IOP
The eyes do not exist in isolation. Their health reflects overall health. The retina is, in fact, neural tissue — an extension of the brain. The eye is the most nutrient-hungry organ, proportional to its size, in the human body.
Eating a healthy diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, provides the eyes with essential nutrients. Oxidative stress and free radical damage are especially harmful to the tiny structures of the eye. The trabecular meshwork and retinal ganglion cells need antioxidants to stay healthy.
Nutrients that support the optic nerve include taurine (an amino acid), essential fatty acids, bioflavonoids, glutathione, and n-acetyl-carnosine. Additionally, gingko biloba, alpha lipoic acid, magnesium, maritime pine bark, and vitamins C, E, and B12 are important. Food sources of these nutrients include walnuts, broccoli, salmon, leafy green vegetables, and eggplant.
Eating a fully glaucoma-fighting diet is impractical for many. Supplements are helpful. Grape seed extract is a concentrated and convenient source of nutrients for optic nerve health. Krill oil provides essential fatty acids to reduce inflammation in the eye. ACG Glutathione spray in the mouth quickly helps control free radicals. Vitamin C protects the trabecular meshwork from clogging2.
At Natural Eye Care, we have developed several different discount optic nerve support packages. Call us at 845.475.4158 if you are not sure which one will be best for you.
If you are concerned about glaucoma or intraocular pressure, please schedule a free phone consultation with one of our specialists. We can recommend specific supplements for your needs.
The stereotypical couch potato is basically asking to get eye disease – and more! Lack of exercise and a low-nutrient, high-calorie diet are clearly linked to many types of disease.
- Bad diet and little exercise lead to diseases that are risk factors for open-angle glaucoma
- Poor blood circulation is likely at the root of normal-tension glaucoma
- High blood pressure can cause a retinal vein occlusion, increasing the risk of getting glaucoma
- Inflammation appears to play a role in glaucoma
- Heavy computer users have a higher risk
- Excessive homocysteine3 in the blood is a risk factor for heart attacks and glaucoma. Excessive meat and insufficient fruits and leafy vegetables increase homocysteine.
- Obesity increases intraocular pressure, possibly leading to glaucoma in the future.
- Smoking cigarettes increases your risk of optic nerve disease by 16 times. Note: Smoking marijuana appears to lower IOP, but only temporarily.
The antidote is to maintain an appropriate weight, exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet.
If you have developed open-angle or low-tension glaucoma, add natural approaches to your doctor’s regimen of eye drops. Eat plenty of produce, take glaucoma supplements, and get regular exercise. Glaucoma suspects should not wait to become glaucoma victims. Clean up your diet, avoid smoking, and stay active. Ingesting glaucoma-fighting nutrients may reduce free radical damage and inflammation in the eyes.
Sources: See our Research on Glaucoma
- Comparison of glaucomatous progression between untreated patients with normal-tension glaucoma and patients with therapeutically reduced intraocular pressures. American Journal of Ophthalmology, Volume 126, Issue 4, 487 – 497 ↩
- P.Xu, et al, Ascorbic acid modulation of iron homeostasis and lysosomal function in trabecular meshwork cells, Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics, March-April, 2014. ↩
- Roedl, J.B., Bleich, S., Schlotzer-Schrehardt, U., von Ansen, N., et al. (2008). Increased homocysteine levels in tear fluid of patients with primary open-angle glaucoma. Ophthalmic Res, 40(5):249-56. ↩