GLAUCOMA – WHAT IT IS, THE CAUSES, RISKS AND HOW TO TREAT IT

Glaucoma (the sneak thief of sight) refers to certain eye diseases that affect the optic nerve and cause vision loss, usually following an increase in pressure of the fluid within the eyeball. This pressure is called intraocular pressure. This is usually accompanied by a loss of vision which may vary from a slight loss of vision to complete blindness.

Glaucoma usually occurs in people over 40 years of age. The elderly and people with family histories of the disease are at greatest risk. There are no symptoms in the early stages and by the time the patient notices vision changes, visual loss due to glaucoma can only be halted, not reversed.

The eye is filled with a liquid called aqueous humour, secreted by membranes lining the eye. Normal pressure within the eye is maintained by allowing some of this fluid to drain away via an outflow pathway. When the outflow pathway is blocked for some reason, aqueous humour continues to build up causing an increase in pressure within the eyeball. Increased pressure can eventually damage the delicate optic nerve at the back of the eye, causing scarring. This nerve is the link between your eyes and brain. Blood supply may also be reduced to the optic nerve fibers.

Categories of Glaucoma include:

Primary Glaucoma

  • Open-angle Glaucoma.
  • Closed angle Glaucoma.
  • Congenital (infantile) Glaucoma.

Primary Glaucoma accounts for most diagnosed Glaucoma cases. This condition may result in peripheral (side) vision loss or coloured halos around lights. There is gradual vision loss over a period of years affecting both eyes. Pain may be felt in the eye from increased pressure within the eyeball. Other symptoms include mild headaches and vague visual problems. A frequent need to change prescriptions for glasses may also be a warning sign. This condition can often have no obvious symptoms and may only be detected on medical examination.

Secondary Glaucoma: this type of Glaucoma arises because of a pre-existing disease of the eye such as a tumour, an enlarged cataract or inflammation within the eye.

Absolute Glaucoma: this type of Glaucoma is likely to appear as the end stage of all Glaucoma.

Treat ment opt ions:

Your GP will diagnose and treat this condition and can provide you with the latest advice. It is diagnosed through a simple and painless test and is usually treated with eye drops, although lasers and surgery can also be used. Most cases can be controlled well with these treatments, thereby preventing further loss of vision. Early diagnosis and treatment is the key to preserving sight in people with glaucoma

Diet hints:

  • Vitamin C helps maintain the strength of collagen in the body. Include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (citrus fruits, cabbage, pineapple, potato, parsley and broccoli) in the diet each day.
  • Bioflavonoids assist with the normal metabolism of collagen in the body. Bioflavonoids are also found in fruits and vegetables, particularly the pith of citrus fruits.
  • Vitamin B1 deficiency may be associated with Glaucoma. Include whole grains, wheat germ, nuts, liver and pork in the diet.
  • Eliminate any possible food allergens.
  • Avoid caffeine as it may affect fluid pressure in the eye.
  • Vitamin C combines well the bioflavonoid rutin to reduce pain and intraocular pressure.
  • Chromium is particularly important for people with diabetes as it can assist with their blood sugar balance and prevention of glaucoma.
  • Magnesium can lower eye pressure by relaxing the blood vessels supplying the eye.
  • Bilberry may help prevent future blood vessel damage in the eye. Bilberry may help maintain night vision.
  • Ginkgo has been shown to be beneficial for glaucoma as it can improve blood flow and contains flavonoids which support eye structure and function.

It is essential that the pressure in the eyes is tested regularly, particularly in individuals with a family history of Glaucoma. Everyone over 40 years of age should have an eye test at least every 2 years.

Pharmacist’s advice:

  1. Follow the Diet Hints.
  2. If you have any queries regarding your prescriptive medication, ask your Pharmacist. It is very important to use the medication on a regular basis.
  3. Hints on Using Eye Drops: Use drops regularly. Keeping the drops cool (in the refrigerator) helps to feel the drops go into the eye. Keep an extra bottle of eye drops available so that you never run out. Always use the drops even when the eyesight is blurred and the eyes are uncomfortable.