GUARDING against GLAUCOMA
November 1, 2011
THE LOSS of one of the special senses, especially eyesight, can be very traumatic. The eye disease glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness. The condition involves an elevated intra-ocular pressure (IOP) in the eye because of reduced outflow of the clear fluid found in the front of the eye called aqueous humor.
Ninety per cent of all cases of glaucoma are called primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG). POAG can usually be controlled with treatment over the patients’ lifetime. If glaucoma is diagnosed early and treated, vision is usually not permanently impaired.
ARE YOU AT RISK?
In North America, one in 30 people over age 40, has glaucoma and one-half of them are not aware that they have the disease. The National Eye Institute estimates that diabetics are almost twice as likely to have glaucoma as non-diabetics. The more long-standing the diabetes, the greater the risk of glaucoma.
High blood pressure and a family history of glaucoma increase an individual’s risk. Glaucoma is four to five times more common among Black Americans compared to White Americans. The problem is very common in Jamaica. The risk of glaucoma appears greater in individuals who suffer severe farsightedness or nearsightedness.
The Physicians’ Desk Reference lists 94 medications that can cause glaucoma, including antihypertensives, antidepressants, antihistamines and steroids, such as prednisone.
Glaucoma is a serious eye condition requiring diagnosis, treatment and monitoring by a qualified ophthalmologist. Results might be additionally improved by also working with a physician who combines the best of orthodox and complementary wisdom.
Current glaucoma treatment focuses on medication and surgery to reduce IOP, but providing protection to the delicate nerve cells of the retinal is critical in preventing progressive loss of vision. Some of the following lifestyle suggestions should be considered as part of an anti-glaucoma programme.
Medical evidence suggests that regular exercise can reduce eye pressure on its own while having a positive effect on other glaucoma risk factors like diabetes and high blood pressure.
In one study, a group of people with glaucoma rode stationary bikes four times per week for 40 minutes for three months and reduced their IOPs an average of 20 per cent These beneficial effects were maintained by continuing to exercise at least three times per week, and lowered IOP was lost if exercise was stopped for more than two weeks.
A diet rich in antioxidants benefits eye health generally. The diet for the glaucoma sufferer should emphasise vitamin-C-rich foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. Foods high in Vitamin A, and Vitamin E also help protect the eyes and are an essential part of a diet for glaucoma patients. In addition to fruits and vegetables, it is important for such people to consume whole grains, nuts and seeds on a regular basis.
Foods that are high in carotenoids are essential for good eye health. These include fruits like oranges, leafy green veggies and yellow vegetables such as peppers. Include foods rich in magnesium and chromium like apples, brewer’s yeast, kelp and leafy green veggies.
Foods that contain the bioflavonoid anthocyanidin should be consumed on a regular basis, as it helps to prevent free-radicals damage and keeps the collagen around the eye flexible and healthy. Foods that contain high amounts of this bioflavonoid are cherries, grapes and berries like blueberries.
Green tea: Studies indicate that the regular consumption of green tea can help protect the eyes from further glaucoma damage, because the tissues of the eye – the retina and the aqueous humor absorb the antioxidants from the green tea.
Additional vitamin C may assist in lowering IOP and establishing healthy collagen. Some individuals benefit from as little as two grams of vitamin C daily, while others will need much more. It should be taken in doses spaced throughout the day to allow a continuous supply of ascorbate.
Vitamin B12 is a vitamin with a specific ability to protect delicate nerve cells such as those in the eye. Vitamin B12 supplementation at higher than usual dosages is considered therapeutic protection against such neurological damage. It can be taken as sublingual methylcobalamine tablets as an alternative to weekly B12 injections.
A fat found in fish oil called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may help protect and promote healthy retinal function. DHA is concentrated in the eye’s retina and has been found to be particularly useful in optimising vision.
Alpha-lipoic acid, another antioxidant has attracted attention in the treatment of glaucoma, as it appears to improve intra-ocular pressure and visual function. Glaucoma research suggests a daily dose of 150 mg.
Pycnogenol is a supplement rich in proanthocyanidins that increases the effectiveness of vitamin C and together they support healthy collagen and defend against free-radicals damage. Two hundred to 300mg daily is recommended for glaucoma.
Bilberry is often referred to as the ‘eye herb’ because of its anthocyanosides content. It works in a similar way to pycnogenol at doses of 200mg times daily.
ANTIOXIDANT EYE DROPS
Brite Eyes is a topically applied eye drop that contains the antioxidant N-acetyl-L-carnosine. Research shows it protects the eye against free radicals and helps prevent damage to eye tissues and the formation of cataracts. Further research has indicated its usefulness in lowering IOP. One to two drops per day in each eye is useful for glaucoma and cataract sufferers as well as for general eye health.
Research on the effects of relaxation exercise and biofeedback sessions on IOP has shown promise in controlling some cases of POAG. Findings suggest that the reduced blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension achieved with relaxation and biofeedback may be responsible for the improvements. Yoga may be particularly helpful.
It is important to minimise emotional stress and cultivate a relaxed and restful lifestyle, as glaucoma is aggravated by stress. Avoid excessive watching of television and prolonged computer time without a break, as such habits can lead to prolonged strain on the eyes.