What is Glaucoma and How Can Nutrition Help?

Vitamin Healthophthalmology

Glaucoma is an eye disease that occurs when there is damage to your optic nerve. This damage occurs in the presence of extra fluid build up in the eye, causing pressure in the eye that damages the optic nerve. There are two types of glaucoma, primary open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma. Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 60, but can be prevented by knowing the risks and taking early intervention steps. The single best prevention method for glaucoma is reducing pressure in the eye with a balanced diet and eye healthy foods. 

In today’s post, we’ll offer a brief overview of what glaucoma is and how nutrition can help reduce your risk. 

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions caused by damage to the optic nerve, which eventually impacts vision. The damage to the optic nerve is caused by abnormally high pressure in the eye, most commonly caused by other chronic health conditions including hypertension, diabetes, sickle cell anemia, or heart disease. Glaucoma often develops slowly over time and symptoms can be overlooked until the disease is in advanced stages. 

Open-Angle Glaucoma

Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma. Gradually, the eye does not drain fluid as well as it should, causing pressure to build up over time. The increasing pressure causes damage to the optic nerve and will eventually cause vision changes. 

Closed-Angle Glaucoma

In this type of glaucoma, the iris of the eye ends up blocking the drainage angle, causing eye pressure to rise. Many people do not notice the symptoms unless they have an acute attack when the drainage angle is completely blocked. This medical emergency causes sudden blurred vision, eye pain, headaches, and can cause other visual changes or nausea. Left untreated, an acute open-angle glaucoma attack can cause blindness. 

For both types of glaucoma, the damage done is not reversible and there is no real treatment or cure. While you can manage symptoms, the best way to prevent blindness is by preventing glaucoma to begin with.  

Reducing Your Risk of Glaucoma

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. To effectively prevent glaucoma, the best thing is to be aware of your risk factors and do what you can to reduce or eliminate your risks. Some risk factors you cannot control, while others you can. If you have any risk factors that you cannot control (age, ethnicity, sex, etc.), your best prevention is to schedule regular eye exams and do what you can to promote optimal eye health. For those who have controllable risk factors, make small changes to protect your vision. Risk factors include: 

  • High intraocular pressure
  • Aged over 60 years
  • African American, Asian, or Hispanic
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • Diagnosis of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, or sickle cell anemia (your risk factors increase with co-morbidities and if your chronic condition is not well controlled)
  • History of eye injury or surgery
  • Being extremely nearsighted or farsighted
  • Thin corneas
  • Long-term use of corticosteroids (your risk is increased with long term use of corticosteroid eye drops)

How Nutrition Impacts Glaucoma

At Viteyes, we spend a lot of time discussing the positive correlation between nutrition and eye health. Decreasing your risk of glaucoma is no different. Selecting a diet rich in eye healthy foods, you can promote optimal eye health and reduce intraocular pressure that causes glaucoma. Currently, the only known method to reduce your risk of glaucoma is to lower eye pressure, and your diet can help! Let’s discuss some dietary factors that can influence glaucoma. 

Caffeine

There has been a lot of research dedicated to the effects of caffeine on intraocular pressure and different studies have concluded different things. It is safe to say that a cup of coffee a day is not likely to create long-term negative effects, but downing caffeine all day with little water could cause problems. 

Antioxidants

Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in the body and can be found in foods including fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods. Vitamins E and C are some of the most common effective antioxidants, found in leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, and berries, among other foods. There have been studies that have shown a possible relationship between the consumption of foods rich in antioxidants and decreased glaucoma risk. In African-American women, there was a decreased risk of glaucoma with higher intake of certain fruits and vegetables high in vitamins A, C, and carotenoids.

Omega Fatty Acids

Omega fatty acids 3 and 6 have many health benefits and support vision and eye health. It is well understood that diets that have adequate omega fatty acid intake, such as in salmon, can help reduce the risk of many chronic conditions including coronary artery disease (CHD), atherosclerosis, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and heart disease — all of which are known risk factors for glaucoma.

Key Takeaways

There is a lot to be said about the relationship between nutrition and health. To help reduce your risk of glaucoma, consume enough Vitamins C, A, carotenoids, and omega fatty acids, while enjoying caffeine, salt, and alcohol in minimal amounts (moderation). 

To support optimal eye health, continue to read our educational posts and eat a diet rich in eye health power foods! You can also supplement your diet with an eye vitamin that can help bridge the gap between your diet and meeting daily recommended amounts of Vitamins C, E, zinc, copper, lutein, and zeaxanthin. To browse our entire collection of eye supplements, visit Viteyes online!