Pursuing a 360 lifestyle involves caring for every part of the body – no matter how big or small. The eyes are no exception. Blindness is a serious concern and glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. January is Glaucoma Awareness month — a good time to learn how to identify and treat this disease.
Glaucoma is often called the “silent thief of sight,” because most types typically cause no pain and produce no symptoms until noticeable vision loss occurs. For this reason, glaucoma often progresses undetected until the optic nerve already has been damaged, with varying degrees of vision loss.
In the published case-study Glaucoma Awareness and Self-Care Practices among the Health Professionals in a Medical College Hospital from 2015, the study revealed unsatisfactory awareness and self-care practices concerning glaucoma among health professionals, including clinicians who study and practice ophthalmology, although it is presumed and predicted to be the contrary. This alarming revelation warrants the need for enrichment of glaucoma awareness programs.
This month, we turned to our local eye care professionals at Leet EyeCare to help us better understand and spread awareness for Glaucoma.
What the doctors at Leet EyeCare had to say:
Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that cause damage to the optic nerve in the back of the eye. Generally, this damage is caused by increased pressure in the eye. In most cases, glaucoma affects the peripheral or side vision first and then can approach the central vision. While there is no cure for glaucoma, typically treatment involves eye drops to decrease the pressure inside the eye to slow down the progression of glaucoma.
The best way to manage glaucoma is early detection. Because you cannot “feel” glaucoma occurring and it affects peripheral vision first, it is typically diagnosed during a routine eye examination with the patient having no symptoms. This is why we recommend annual eye exams to allow for the earliest detection possible. We also recommend getting the Optomap, which takes a picture of the back of the eye and allows the practitioner to pick up subtle changes from year to year.
An ophthalmologist’s care is vital, especially if you are at higher risk of glaucoma: genetics, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart or thyroid disease, chronic stress, eye injury, heavy computer use, or prolonged use of corticosteroid medicines can increase risk for glaucoma.
If you are at high risk for glaucoma or already have the disease, there is evidence that you can help ease the condition by making the following lifestyle adjustments:
Dietary changes: Lower caffeine intake. Studies have shown that coffee can produce a 13% reduction in retinal blood flow. This is especially important in patients that have existing retinal damage and who are losing vision.
Exercise: Aerobic exercise has been shown to reduce mean intraocular pressure when compared to previously sedentary glaucoma patients. This has the same result as the pressure lowering properties of glaucoma medication. If you do not have a regular exercise program now is the time to start.
Stop smoking: Smoking has been shown to contribute to the condition. Smoking can raise the intraocular pressure by 5.0 mm Hg or more. Nicotine has been shown to reduce retinal blood flow by 16%. Tobacco also robs the body of 25 mg of vitamin C per cigarette. Smokers have an increase in lipids (both fat and cholesterol) which increases the risk of severe cardiovascular disease. These factors produce narrowing of the retina blood vessels that carry valuable nutrients to the eye.
Sunlight: UV and Blue Violet sun rays increase the risk of developing free radicals, which can damage the eye. Wearing a good pair of sunglasses which block 100% of UVA and UVB and block at least 85% of blue violet sun rays can help decrease this risk.
Hypothyroidism: If you have glaucoma (or symptoms of glaucoma) it is important to have your thyroid checked. Many cases of low tension glaucoma have been reported related to low thyroid functioning. Hypothyroidism can lead to a condition called myxedema which results in a buildup of mucopolysaccharides (chains of sugar molecules) throughout the body. Increase in mucopolysaccharides in the eye may block the outflow of aqueous producing elevations of intraocular pressure.
Supplements: Antioxidants may help improve outflow of fluid in the eye and lower the intraocular pressure. They may also protect the optic nerve by blocking oxygen free radical vasoconstriction, which may lead to ischemia (reduced blood flow to the eyes). Antioxidants may also protect the optic nerve from inflammation. Recommended antioxidant vitamins include Vitamin E, C, and Beta carotene (Vitamin A).
Other vitamins that are helpful for Glaucoma:
- Vitamin B12 – Vitamin 12 may have a protective effect on the optic nerve and prevent visual loss in glaucoma.
- Magnesium – Magnesium deficiency is associated with systemic hypertension. It may have a role in blocking the effect of calcium, which causes vasoconstriction of blood vessels. The use of magnesium has been shown to improve retinal circulation in some cases of retinopathy.
- Selenium – Selenium is a vital antioxidant, which protects the immune system by preventing the formation of free radicals. It is especially important to combine Selenium with Vitamin E. They act together to aid in the production of antibodies and to help maintain a healthy heart, liver, and eyes.
- Chromium – Studies have shown that Chromium will lower lipid levels in the body and increase the levels of good cholesterol (HDL). Chromium may be especially important in patients taking beta blockers.
- Amino Acids – Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that protects retinal cells from UV radiation.
- Fatty Acids – Diets deficient in Omega- 3 fatty acids have been shown to result in visual impairment. In one European study, Omega- 3 fats improved the vision in 6 out of 7 patients with macular degeneration.
- Quercetin – A Bioflavinoid found in foods such as red onions has been shown to be potent in preventing the damage of fat tissue in the eyes from UV light. It also inhibits histamine release and relaxes the smooth muscles of blood vessels.
- Bilberry – Studies have shown that Bilberry may improve oxygen delivery to the eye and act as an antioxidant and may have a protective effect on the eye and prevent further damage from the glaucoma.
- Ginkgo Biloba – Ginkgo’s primary clinical application has been in the treatment of vascular insufficiency. Many studies have demonstrated improvement in circulation in patients with arterial insufficiency. In addition to improving retinal circulation, Ginkgo also has a protective effect against free radicals.
Health is a blend of body, mind, and spirit. Aging is part of life – but premature aging, what many of us undergo between our 40’s and 60’s, is not. Research shows that most aspects of premature damage to the cells can be reversed using non-invasive procedures and treatments. For more information on targeted solutions that redefine the meaning of well-being, schedule your free Integrative Health consultation!