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Glaucoma: Nutrients to Slow its Progression

Eyes, Diabetes, Age related illnesses | March 15, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

diabetes

Glaucoma: Nutrients to Slow its Progression

Glaucoma is largely an invisible disease that is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. One in 8 Australians over 80 will develop this disease, with first-degree relatives having a ten-fold increased risk in developing this condition. If diagnosed early and treated appropriately the likelihood of this condition leading to blindness is significantly reduced. There is strong research to suggest specific nutrients are very useful in reducing damage to the optic nerve, which causes loss of vision in people with Glaucoma.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma refers to a group of eye diseases in which the optic nerve at the back of the eye is slowly damaged.

Glaucoma occurs when there is elevated pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure). This increase in eye pressure is mainly due to obstruction of the outflow of aqueous humour (the name given to the fluid in the eye) or its drainage.

Others causes of damage include poor blood supply to the optic nerve fibres, a weakness in the structure of the nerve and/or a problem in the health of the nerve fibres themselves. Damage to the optic nerve may cause impaired vision, ranging from slight loss to complete blindness.

Types of glaucoma

There are four types of glaucoma

Chronic open-angle glaucoma: the most common form of glaucoma, accounting for up to 90% of cases.

Juvenile open-angle glaucoma: essentially the same disease but occurs in individuals under 40 years of age and has a strong genetic cause.

Acute angle-closure glaucoma: a less common form that usually presents itself as a medical emergency (e.g. eye trauma).

Congenital glaucoma: a rare form of open-angle glaucoma which affects children from birth to age 3.

Who is at risk?

  • Those with a family history of glaucoma
  • People over the age of 60
  • Diabetics and individuals with high blood pressure and heart disease
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smokers
  • Near and far sightedness
  • Eyes with shallow anterior chambers
  • Head trauma and eye injuries
  • Use of certain medications including antihistamines, antihypertensives and corticosteroids

What to look out for

Chronic open-angle glaucoma is the most common type that causes a gradual loss of vision, starting with the sides. A person may be unaware of the damage that is occurring as the other eye compensates for the others weakness. Unfortunately glaucoma is usually identified when a large majority of the nerve fibres have already become damaged. This damage is irreversible but treatment can help to slow the development, reducing further damage.

Signs and symptoms of glaucoma

  • Loss of visual acuity
  • Loss of peripheral vision
  • Blurred vision
  • Coloured halos around lights
  • Light sensitivity
  • Increased eye pressure
  • Eye pain
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Headache/migraine

Dietary and lifestyle suggestions

Diabetes, pre-diabetes (metabolic syndrome) and insulin resistance are shown to affect vascular autoregulation of the retina and optic nerve and is associated with an increased risk of glaucoma.

Studies show that participants without diabetes but at the higher levels of fasting glucose, fasting insulin may also be at greater risk of glaucoma. 

With this information, eating a low glycaemic index diet is recommended to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

Eat a range of fresh fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants and fibre. Include foods rich in bioflavonoids, carotenes and vitamin C in the diet, such as blueberries, dark leafy greens, and yellow and orange vegetables. Aim for 1-2 serves of fruit and 7-8 serves of vegetables daily with lean protein from meats and vegetarian sources such as nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and natural yoghurt.

Exercise may reduce intraocular pressure in people with glaucoma—aim for 30 minutes or more every day.

Quitting smoking will have a big impact on eye health. Cigarette smoke reduces blood flow to the optic nerve and also causes oxidative damage. If you smoke, you significantly increase your risk of developing glaucoma.

Nutrients for optic nerve health

Lipoic acid

In clinical studies, the greatest improvements in the biochemical parameters of glaucoma and vision were observed in patients receiving 150 mg of lipoic acid daily. 47% of this group experienced improvement in visual acuity, visual field, colour discrimination and increased lacrimal tear fluid.

Thiamin

Thiamin (vitamin B1) has been found to be deficient in some patients with glaucoma. Blood levels and dietary intakes of B1 were examined in 38 patients with glaucoma and compared to 12 controls.

The glaucoma patients demonstrated a significantly lower level of thiamin which was not a reflection of decreased intake causing the researchers to postulate an impaired absorption of thiamin in these patients.

As thiamin deficiency has been associated with degeneration of ganglionic cells of the brain and spinal cord, the researchers postulated a possible degeneration of the optic nerve as well.

Vitamin B12

While a deficiency of vitamin B12 has not been implicated in glaucoma, such a deficiency may cause optic atrophy and visual field defects which mimic glaucoma. An open trial of 5 mg B12 daily in glaucoma patients found no change in intraocular pressure with supplementation. However, there was no progression of visual field loss during five years of follow-up.

Magnesium

Magnesium is considered 'nature's calcium channel blocker’ and calcium channel blocking drugs are shown to help some glaucoma patients. Magnesium is shown to improve the visual field and peripheral circulation in glaucoma sufferers.

Omega-3 fatty acid

Diets rich in omega-3 fats are shown to decrease eye pressure and are essential for neurological tissues, including the retina. Omega-3 is also anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, balances blood lipid profile and blood sugars and reduces stress. Numerous studies have shown omega-3 fatty acids to play a role in both the treatment and prevention of glaucoma.

Herbs for glaucoma

Bilberry

Bilberry holds promise in the treatment of glaucoma, although there has been just one very limited study. Eight patients with glaucoma were given a single dose of 200 mg anthocyanosides from bilberry. Significant improvements were noted when eye tests were performed at the conclusion of the study.

Anthocyanosides are believed to be effective for glaucoma due to its antioxidant and collagen-stabilizing effect exerting a positive influence on the trabecular meshwork, facilitating aqueous outflow.

Ginkgo

Ginkgo significantly increased blood flow to the ophthalmic artery with no change seen in the placebo group. Although Ginkgo did not alter pressure in the eye, it may provide potential benefit in glaucoma patients who suffer from decreased ocular blood flow.

In conclusion

Glaucoma is a common eye disease that is characterized by increased intraocular pressure which leads to damage of the optic nerve. This damage that occurs slowly over a long-period leads to changes in vision and blindness if left untreated. Nutrients that protect the optic nerve, reduce intraocular pressure and act as antioxidants can help to slow the progression of the disease.

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References

http://www.glaucoma.org.au/what.htm

http://www.glaucoma.org/treatment/nutrition-and-glaucoma.php

Perez-de-Arcelus M, et al. Medicine (Baltimore). 2017 Jan;96(1):e5761

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5228680/

Head KA. Natural therapies for ocular disorders, part two: cataracts and glaucoma. Altern Med Rev. 2001 Apr;6(2):141-66

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11302779

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