Glaucoma, the second leading
cause of blindness in the world, is a group of
eye diseases that damage your optic nerve, leading
to vision loss. In its early stages, glaucoma
may produce no symptoms at all, and its
estimated that half of the more than 4 million
Americans with glaucoma do not even realize they
Because the vision loss caused by glaucoma comes
on so gradually, it is sometimes called the silent
thief of sight. Often, its not until
the disease is at an advanced stage that the related
vision loss becomes apparent, and by then your
sight may suffer permanent damage.
This is why its so important to take steps
now to help protect your vision, even if your
eyesight is normal. Ill be discussing exactly
what you can do to help prevent and treat glaucoma
later in the article, but first heres a
bit of background on this common eye problem.
What Causes Glaucoma?
The underlying causes of glaucoma are not completely
understood, but typically the damage it does to
your optic nerve is related to increased pressure
in your eye. The pressure typically comes from
a buildup of pressure from the aqueous humor,
the watery fluid that is naturally present in
In a healthy eye, the fluid is regularly drained,
however in those with glaucoma the drainage system
doesnt work properly, so the fluid gradually
builds up in your eye, causing increased pressure.
Over time, the increased pressure causes nerve
fibers that are essential to vision to die.
Though less common, glaucoma can also occur when
eye pressure is normal. It appears some peoples
optic nerves may be sensitive to normal levels
of eye pressure, or the glaucoma may be related
to problems with blood flow to your eye, which
may be caused by atherosclerosis -- the accumulation
of plaques in your arteries -- or another circulation
In the most common type of glaucoma, open-angle
(chronic) glaucoma, side (peripheral) vision is
usually affected first. In the later stages, glaucoma
can lead to tunnel vision, where you
can only see straight ahead, and can eventually
lead to blindness. The symptoms are gradual and
come on very slowly, so you may not realize your
vision is being impacted until much later stages.
About 10 percent of those with glaucoma have
whats called angle-closure (acute) glaucoma,
and in these cases a sudden rise in eye pressure
* Severe eye pain
* Blurred vision
* Sudden visual disturbances
* Halos around lights
* Reddening of the eye
* Nausea and vomiting
This latter form usually requires immediate treatment.
Who is at Risk?
Anyone can get glaucoma, but there are factors
that increase your risk:
* Certain ethnicities: Glaucoma is six to eight
times more common in African-Americans than in
Caucasians. Mexican-Americans, Asian-Americans
and Japanese-Americans are also at an increased
* Over 60 years old: The risk of glaucoma increases
once you are over 60.
* Chronic diseases: Diabetes, high blood pressure,
heart disease and hypothyroidism all increase
* Family history: If someone in your family
has glaucoma, it may increase your risk.
* Eye injury and nearsightedness: Eye injuries
such as retinal detachment, eye tumors, eye inflammations
and eye surgery, as well as nearsightedness, increase
* Use of corticosteroids. A prolonged use of
these drugs appears to increase your risk, especially
corticosteroid eye drops.
Making Sure Glaucoma is Diagnosed Correctly
Ophthalmologists typically rely on a simple "air
puff" test to check for high pressure inside
your eye. However, if you are getting screened
for this disease, please make sure you also have
your corneal thickness measured using a relatively
newer test called pachmyetry.
Pachymetry, which measures corneal thickness,
may be a more reliable indicator of the pressure
inside your eye because the thickness of your
cornea can significantly influence the readings
on the air puff test.
If you have thin corneas, the instrument may
give falsely low readings and may miss the diagnosis
of glaucoma. If you have thick corneas the air
puff test can actually misdiagnosis you as having
glaucoma despite the fact that you have normal
Conventional Ways Lower Your Eye Pressure
Conventional medicines solution to glaucoma
is typically drugs or surgery, or a combination
of them. Often eye drops are given to glaucoma
patients to use for life in an attempt to lower
pressure inside of their eyes, but they come with
a laundry list of side effects including:
* Blurred vision
* Respiratory problems
* Lowered heart rate
* Burning or stinging in the eyes
Surgery also carries with it serious risks, among
them an increased risk of cataracts.
Natural Ways to Lower Your Eye Pressure
You do have another option, though, as surprising
as it may sound the same lifestyle changes that
lower blood pressure typically also work to lower
your eye pressure, thereby helping to prevent
and even treat glaucoma without a risk of side
The top two steps are:
1. Lower your insulin levels: As your insulin
levels rise, it causes your blood pressure, and
possibly also your eye pressure, to increase.
In time this can cause your body to become insulin
resistant, and studies show insulin resistance
-- which is common in people with diabetes, obesity
and high blood pressure -- is linked to elevated
The solution is to avoid sugar and grains, the
two food groups that will inevitably
cause surges in your insulin levels. Even whole,
organic grains will rapidly break down to sugars,
so they too should be avoided. So in addition
to avoiding sugar, if you have glaucoma or are
concerned about it, youll want to avoid
2. Exercise regularly: One of the most effective
ways to lower your insulin levels is through exercise.
A regular, effective exercise program consisting
of aerobics, sprint-burst type exercises, and
strength training can go a long way toward reducing
your insulin levels and protecting your vision.
Other Tips to Keep Your Vision Healthy
As part of your overall program to keep your
eyesight clear and problem-free, even as you age,
make sure you are doing the following:
* Taking an animal-based omega-3 fat supplement.
A type of omega-3 fat called docosahexaenoic acid
(DHA) may help protect and promote healthy retinal
function. DHA is concentrated in your eye's retina
and has been found to be particularly useful in
preventing macular degeneration, the leading cause
Omega-3 fat, including DHA, is found in fish,
but I don't recommend eating fish due to the concerns
of mercury and other toxins that have been found
in fish from oceans, lakes and streams and farm-raised
fish. Instead, my most highly recommended source
for omega-3 fat is krill oil.
* Getting your lutein and zeaxanthin. Many have
never heard of these two vision powerhouses, but
they are incredibly important for your eyesight.
Lutein, which is a carotenoid found in particularly
large quantities in green, leafy vegetables, acts
as an antioxidant, protecting cells from free
Some excellent sources include kale, collard
greens, spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts and
egg yolks, particularly raw egg yolks. Egg yolks
also have zeaxanthin, another carotenoid, in an
equal amount to lutein. Zeaxanthin is likely to
be equally as effective as lutein in protecting
It is important to note that lutein is an oil-soluble
nutrient, and if you merely consume the above
vegetables without some oil or butter you can't
absorb the lutein. So make sure youre eating
some healthy fat along with your veggies,
Eggs yolks are also loaded with these nutrients
but once the egg is cooked they tend to be damaged
and non useful. So you can consume them raw by
whipping them up in a shake or cooking them minimally
as in sunny side or poach them with runny yolks.
* Avoiding trans fats: Trans fat may interfere
with omega-3 fats in your body, which are extremely
important for your eye health. A diet high in
trans fat also appears to contribute to macular
degeneration. Trans fat is found in many processed
foods and baked goods, including margarine, shortening,
fried foods like French fries, fried chicken and
doughnuts, cookies, pastries and crackers.
* Eating dark-colored berries. The European
blueberry, bilberry, is known to prevent and even
reverse macular degeneration, and bioflavonoids
from other dark-colored berries including blueberries,
cranberries and others will also be beneficial.
They work by strengthening the capillaries that
carry nutrients to eye muscles and nerves.
However, because berries contain natural sugar
they should be eaten in moderation to avoid upsetting
your insulin levels.
Following the healthy lifestyle tips Ive
described above will go a long way toward protecting
your vision, whether youve been diagnosed
with glaucoma or simply want to keep your eyesight
in top condition. If you have glaucoma, however,
its especially important to eliminate those
grains and sugars, get exercising, and consume
animal-based omega-3 fat regularly in order to
keep the disease from progressing.