What is Glaucoma?
A leading cause of blindness in the United States, glaucoma causes damage to the eye's optic nerve (a bundle of fibers responsible for transmitting visual information from the retina to the brain).
There are several types of glaucoma. The two most common are primary open-angle glaucoma and acute angle-closure glaucoma.
What Causes It?
Glaucoma typically occurs when fluid pressure inside the eyes slowly builds up and impairs the optic nerve.
In primary open-angle glaucoma, fluid drains from the eye too slowly, resulting in painless damage to the optic nerve and a very gradual loss of vision.
In acute angle-closure glaucoma, the iris partially blocks fluid drainage at the angle where the cornea and iris meet, causing an abrupt increase in eye pressure.
The following may increase your risk of glaucoma:
- Being over age 60
- Having a family history of glaucoma
- High blood pressure
- Eye injuries
African-Americans and Mexican-Americans are more likely to develop glaucoma than Caucasians.
Symptoms of Glaucoma
Although primary open-angle glaucoma often has no symptoms, it leads to a very gradual loss of peripheral vision and - in advanced stages - tunnel vision.
Considered a medical emergency, acute angle-closure glaucoma causes sudden, severe eye pain that may be accompanied by the following:
- Reddening of the eye
- Stomach upset (including nausea and vomiting)
- Sudden visual disturbances, such as blurred vision or the presence of halos around lights
Treatment for Glaucoma
If you experience symptoms of acute angle-closure glaucoma, it's important to seek immediate medical attention. Treatment may include the use of medication and/or a laser procedure that promotes drainage of fluid from the eye.
Undergoing an eye exam every two years can increase your chances of detecting glaucoma in its early stages, delaying progression of the disease, and preserving your vision.
Standard treatments for glaucoma include eyedrops, oral medication, fluid-draining laser procedures, and conventional surgery that creates a new opening for fluid to leave the eye.
Natural Approach to Glaucoma
If not properly treated, glaucoma can result in total blindness. While alternative medicine alone can't treat glaucoma, certain remedies and therapies may help manage the disease. Consider talking with your eye doctor about using the following to help prevent or control glaucoma:
This herb may boost blood flow to the optic nerve and, in turn, have a beneficial effect on glaucoma, according to a research review published in 2001. However, the review authors note that ginkgo biloba was not found to have a direct effect on eye pressure.
2) Vitamin C
Vitamin C - an antioxidant available in supplement form and also abundant in citrus, berries, tomatoes, and other fruits and vegetables - may help reduce eye pressure and benefit people with glaucoma, a 2001 study suggests.
3) Mind-Body Stress Management
Head KA. "Natural therapies for ocular disorders, part two: cataracts and glaucoma." Altern Med Rev. 2001 6(2):141-66.
Rhee DJ, Katz LJ, Spaeth GL, Myers JS. "Complementary and alternative medicine for glaucoma." Surv Ophthalmol. 2001 46(1):43-55.