What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma refers to a group of similar conditions that damage the retina and optic nerve and can cause vision loss and blindness. The two major forms of glaucoma are primary open-angle glaucoma, which accounts for about 90% of glaucoma cases, and acute angle-closure glaucoma.
Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP), which is caused by poor drainage of aqueous humor from the front of the eye, is common in glaucoma. Oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction may play an additional role in retinal ganglion cell death. Many people may not be aware they have glaucoma, as the condition is usually asymptomatic until irreversible damage has already been done.
Natural interventions such as French maritime pine bark and bilberry extract may help slow progression of the disease.
What are the Risk Factors for Glaucoma?
- Family history
- Elevated IOP
- Advanced age
- Ethnicity—African-Americans have the highest risk
- Other medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and thyroid problems
- Other eye conditions
- Prolonged corticosteroid use
- Lack of physical activity
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Glaucoma?
Note: The symptoms listed below generally do not occur until the disease has progressed significantly. Routine eye exams are necessary to catch the disease in earlier stages.
- Primary open-angle glaucoma ‒ Loss of peripheral vision
- Acute angle-closure glaucoma ‒ Symptoms may include extreme eye pain, headaches, blurred vision, red eyes, halos around lights, tender and firm eyes, nausea, and vomiting. The acute form of glaucoma requires emergency medical treatment to prevent vision loss.
What are Conventional Medical Treatments for Glaucoma?
- Alpha agonists (eg, apraclonidine HCl [Iopidine] and brimonidine tartrate [Alphagan])
- Beta blockers (eg, timolol maleate [Istalol, Timoptic XE] and betaxolol [Betoptic])
- Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors (eg, brinzolamide [Azopt] and dorzolamide HCl [Trusopt])
- Cholinergic medications (eg, pilocarpine HCl [Isopto Carpine, Pilopine HS])
- Prostaglandin analogs (eg, travoprost [Travatan] and bimatoprost [Lumigan])
- Surgery (laser or filtering)
What Dietary and Lifestyle Changes Can Be Beneficial for Glaucoma?
- Engage in regular physical activity
- Quit smoking
What Natural Interventions May Be Beneficial for Glaucoma?
- French maritime pine bark and bilberry extract. The combination of these two antioxidant-rich extracts, when combined with a standard glaucoma drug, was shown to reduce IOP.
- Antioxidants. Several other antioxidants such as epigallocatechin-gallate (EGCG) from green tea, vitamin C, and vitamin A may also counter the oxidative damage caused by glaucoma.
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ). Both CoQ10 and PQQ have been shown to support mitochondrial health. As mitochondrial dysfunction may play an important role in glaucoma progression, supplementation with these natural compounds could be beneficial.
- Coleus forskohlii. A special preparation of Coleus forskohlii has been shown to reduce IOP and may be useful for thyroid problems, a risk factor for glaucoma.
- Essential minerals. A number of minerals have been linked to eye health and glaucoma, including magnesium, chromium, selenium, and zinc.
- Other natural interventions that may be beneficial for eye health include melatonin, rutin, ginkgo biloba, and green coffee extract.