Alpha lipoic acid ('97, '98, 2013-14) & Glaucoma


Learn more about treatment options for glaucoma.

Researchers have long suspected that stress from oxidation caused by free radicals may be a contributing factor in development of glaucoma due to damage to the optic nerve.

In a small animal study the route to the trabecular meshwork, which helps to regulate drainage and intraocular pressure was surgically blocked by sponges for several minutes. This involved the space containing lymph between the sclera which surrounds a membrane which in turn surrounds the eyeball. As a result of this procedure the capacity of the trabecula to regulate intraocular pressure was impacted (this process is known medically as a 'filtering bleb') resulting in scarring of the conjunctiva. This is important because many medications used to treat glaucoma and cancers cause conjunctiva scaring, also known as conjunctival fibrosis.

There were three test groups: control, animals treated with mitomycin-C (a chemical used to treat cancers and in glaucoma surgery), and animals treated with alpha lipoic acid (ALA). The control and mitomycin-C treated animals were found to have failed filtering blebs; only 1/3 of the group treated with ALA had the problem. The researchers reported that ALA reduced scarring, inflammation, and accumulation of waste materials in the eye, those protecting the eye from some side effects of this medication.

Researchers: M. Ekinci, et al.

Published: Reduction of conjunctival fibrosis after trabeculectomy using topical α-lipoic acid in rabbit eyes

Scientists evaluated the contribution of stress in glaucoma development in lab animals. Mice with glaucoma were given alpha lipoic acid (ALA) - some were given ALA at age 6 months to interrupt glaucoma development and a prevention diet in which mice were raised on a diet supplemented with ALA prior to glaucoma development.

They measured changes in the genes and proteins for both groups (after 4 months and 11 months of ALA in the diet), with an eye to oxidative stress, nerve cell structure, and number, integrity, and transport of axons. Both groups of mice showed improvement in gene and protein expression, protection of retinal ganglions (nerve cells) and transport compared to controls.

They concluded that such supplementation has a utilitarian value in reducing free radical stress and improving the survival of nerve cells in the optic nerve.

Researchers: D.M. Inman, W. S. Lambert, D.J. Calkins, and P.J. Horner.

Published: Alpha Lipoic acid antioxidant treatment limits glaucoma-related retinal ganglion cell death and dysfunction, PLoS One, June 2013.


Researchers investigating the antioxidant benefits of alpha lipoic acid provided either 75mg daily for 2 months, or 150mg daily for one month to subsets of 75 open-angle glaucoma patients. There were 31 control subjects who received placebo. They found that, both biochemically, and in terms of visual acuity, the group receiving the larger dosage had the best results.

Published: Alpha Lipoic Acid; Alternative Medicine Review, August, 1998


The authors reviewed current research about the capacity of alpha lipoic acid to protect nerve cells from damage. Alpha lipoic acid is able to cross the blood-brain barrier to protect both nerve cells and the extracellular environment. It is a potent antioxidant regenerating through re-cycling other antioxidants such as vitamins C and E in order to raise glutathione levels within the cells and as such is an ideal nutrient in treating tissue damage due to oxidation from free radicals.

Its benefits are to be found in treating a number of related conditions caused by changes in blood flow, damage due to over active neurotransmitter receptors, problems with functioning of mitochondria (cell energy center), and other causes of damage to brain or nerve cell tissue.

Alpha lipoic acid helps the liver to produce glutathione, the most important antioxidant for vision health.

Authors: L. Packer, H.J. Tritschler, and K. Wessel.

Published: Neuroprotection by the metabolic antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid, Free Radical Biology & Medicine, 1997.


Some earlier research on the benefits of alpha lipoic acid:

Helps with visual acuity and color perception. (Filina, et al, Vestnik Oftalmologii, October-December, 1995).

Has strong protective properties for nerve cells. (Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism, July, 1995).