Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, and is one of a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve, causing vision loss. At an early stage, glaucoma may not produce any symptoms. Vision loss caused by glaucoma is very gradual. It is often not until the disease is at an advanced stage that vision loss becomes evident, and by then sight may have suffered irreversible damage. That’s why it’s so important to take action now to help protect your vision, even if your sight is normal.
- 1 What causes glaucoma?
- 2 Who are the people at risk?
- 3 Natural methods to reduce eye pressure
- 4 4 tips to preserve your vision and prevent glaucoma
What causes glaucoma?
The underlying causes of glaucoma are not fully understood, but generally the damage it causes to the optic nerve is related to increased pressure in the eye. The pressure usually comes from a buildup of aqueous humor, the clear fluid naturally present in the eyeballs. In a healthy eye, fluid is drained regularly, but in an eye with glaucoma, the drainage system does not work properly and fluid gradually builds up in the eye, causing pressure to build up. Over time, the increased pressure kills the nerve fibers that are essential for vision.
In the most common types of glaucoma, chronic open-angle glaucoma, peripheral (side) vision is usually affected first. At a later stage, glaucoma can cause “tunnel vision”, which only allows you to see what is in front of you, and can eventually lead to blindness. Symptoms are gradual and come on very slowly, so you may not realize your eyesight is affected until a very advanced stage.
Who are the people at risk?
Anyone can develop glaucoma, but certain factors increase the risk:
- Certain Ethnicities: Glaucoma is six to eight times more common in African Americans than in Caucasians. Mexicans, Asians and Japanese also have an increased risk.
- Over 60: the risk of glaucoma increases after 60.
- Chronic diseases: diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and hypothyroidism increase the risk.
- Family history: If someone in your family has glaucoma, it can increase your risk.
- Eye damage and myopia: Eye damage such as retinal detachment, eye tumours, eye inflammations or eye surgery, as well as myopia, increase the risk.
- Use of corticosteroids: Prolonged use of these drugs increases your risk, especially corticosteroid eye drops.
Natural methods to reduce eye pressure
As surprising as it may seem, lifestyle changes that lower your blood pressure usually also work to lower your eye pressure. Thus helping to prevent and even treat glaucoma without the risk of side effects.
The two main steps are:
1 Lower your insulin levels:
when your insulin levels rise, it raises your blood pressure, and probably your eye pressure as well. Over time, this can make your body insulin resistant, and studies show that insulin resistance, which is common in people with diabetes, obesity or high blood pressure, is linked to high eye pressure. The solution is to avoid sugars and grains, the two “food groups” that inevitably cause insulin spikes. Even organic whole grains quickly break down into sugars, so should be avoided.
So, in addition to avoiding sugar if you have glaucoma or are concerned about developing one, you should avoid the following foods:
2 Exercise regularly:
one of the most effective ways to lower your insulin levels is to exercise. A regular exercise program, consisting of aerobic, sprint-type, and strength-training exercises, can go a long way to lowering your insulin levels and protecting your vision.
4 tips to preserve your vision and prevent glaucoma
As part of a strategy to maintain good eyesight, and avoid problems, even as you age, be sure to:
1 Take a supplement of omega-3 fatty acids of animal origin.
A type of omega-3 fatty acid called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can help protect and stimulate healthy retina function. DHA is concentrated in the retina and is particularly effective in preventing macular degeneration, the main cause of blindness. Omega-3 fatty acids, including DHA, are found in fish.
2 Consuming lutein and zeaxanthin in large amounts.
These two essential pigments for vision are very little known, but they are incredibly important for your eyesight. Lutein, which is a carotenoid found in large amounts in leafy green vegetables, in particular, acts as an antioxidant and protects cells from damage caused by free radicals. Kale, collards, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and egg yolks, especially raw, are great sources of lutein.
Egg yolks also contain zeaxanthin, another carotenoid, in the same proportions as lutein. Zeaxanthin is probably as effective as lutein in protecting eyesight. It is important to note that lutein is a fat-soluble nutrient, and if you simply eat the vegetables listed above without oil or butter, you cannot absorb lutein. It is therefore necessary to ensure that you consume good fats with your vegetables. Egg yolks also contain these nutrients in large amounts but when the egg is cooked they tend to deteriorate and are no longer useful. You can therefore eat them raw by beating them in a drink or by cooking them for a minimum, fried or poached for example, keeping the yolk runny.
3 Avoid trans fats
Trans fats may interfere with omega-3s, which are extremely important for your eye health. A diet high in trans fat also appears to contribute to macular degeneration. Trans fats are found in many processed foods and baked goods. Especially in margarine, fried foods like fries, breaded chicken, cookies, pastries and crackers.
4 Eat dark colored berries
Bilberry is known to prevent and reverse macular degeneration. Bioflavonoids from other dark colored berries like lingonberries etc are also beneficial. They work by strengthening the capillaries that carry nutrients to the muscles and nerves of the eye. However, berries naturally contain sugar, so they should be eaten in moderation to avoid upsetting your insulin levels.