What is Glaucoma
- The term “Glaucoma” is an umbrella term for a group of disorders that damage the optic nerve and eventually lead to blindness.
- It is a progressive illness, meaning that it tends to worsen over time. However, with proper treatment it can be controlled and blindness can be prevented.
- The condition is usually (but not always) characterized by an increase in intraocular pressure (eye pressure).
- It tends to develop after the age of 40 and appears to have a strong genetic connection (meaning if your parents or other relatives had it, you have a high risk of developing it).
What Causes Glaucoma
The underlying factor responsible for the damage to the optic nerve and resulting blindness is an increase in intraocular pressure (eye pressure). This is an issue with the fluid balance within the eye. This fluid is known as the “Aqueous humor” and it has to enter and exit the eye via various pathways. When the pathways for draining the fluid from the eye are blocked or obstructed, there can be a build up of fluid within the eye-> resulting in increased pressure within the eye. This pressure damages the optic nerve.
Now the real question is “why does this obstruction or blockage occur?”
There can be many possible reasons for this, such as:
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased blood sugar
- Certain medications such as corticosteroids
- Poor circulation within the eye
- Certain types of eye drops
Glaucoma may have other potential causes too, such as:
- Eye injuries
- Inflammatory conditions of the eye
- Infections of the eye
- Post-surgical complications from eye operations
Risk Factors for Developing Glaucoma
- Age – It mostly occurs after 40, but can sometimes occur in younger individuals as well.
- Having pre-existing vision problems
- Genetics (a parent or family member that has it)
- Eye injuries
- Being Diabetic or Hypertensive
- Taking certain medications such as steroids and medicines for seizures and incontinence
- Certain race groups and nationalities are more at risk as well, such as African American, Irish, Russian, Japanese, Hispanic, Inuit, and Scandinavian
Types of Glaucoma
Open-Angle Glaucoma -> This is a chronic form of Glaucoma that generally has no symptoms other than slow and progressive vision loss. In this type, the structure that drains the fluid from the eye appears to be normal, but tends to work less efficiently. This is the most common form of Glaucoma.
Angle-Closure Glaucoma -> This is an acute form of Glaucoma that has a very fast onset and requires immediate medical attention. There is usually a sudden blockage in the drainage mechanism that causes a rapid increase in fluid within the eye which can be painful and is considered to be an emergency. It is sometimes referred to as “Narrow-angle glaucoma”. This type is more common in Asia.
Normal Tension Glaucoma -> This is a condition in which there is no change in intraocular pressure but the optic nerve still gets damaged, resulting in blind spots. The exact mechanisms and cause of this remains unknown.
Congenital Glaucoma -> Occurs in children as a result of a birth defect that causes an abnormality in the angel of the child’s eyes. This affects the drainage of fluid from the eyes and can lead to symptoms such as cloudy eyes, excess tears, photophobia, etc.
Secondary Glaucoma -> This type of Glaucoma is usually the result of another underlying condition such as diabetes, cataracts, eye tumors, inflammatory eye conditions and injuries to the eye as well as certain medications.
Pigmentary Glaucoma -> In this type, small amounts of pigment from a part of the eye known as the Iris get into the aqueous humor and clog the drainage system of the eye -> resulting in a build up of fluid and increased intraocular pressure.
Symptoms of Glaucoma
Generally, in the most common form of glaucoma, known as open-angle glaucoma, there are no symptoms other than gradual vision loss. On examination, your physician may find that your intraocular pressure is higher that normal.
In the case of angle-closure glaucoma, it is an emergency and may present with sudden-onset symptoms such as:
- Eye pain
- Blurred vision
- Nausea & Vomiting
- Redness of the eyes
- Seeing colored rings (Halos) around lights
- Other vision disturbances
If you experience these symptoms, you must seek medical treatment immediately.
Remedies for Glaucoma
Most people associate Vitamin C with enhanced immune function and collagen formation, however, it has many other medicinal uses as well.
High-dose Vitamin C supplementation (2000mg or more) has been associated with lower intraocular pressure in patients with Glaucoma (see study).
The problem with this option is that oral Vitamin C in high doses can cause diarrhea, therefore, one should consider intravenous Vitamin C as an option.
Pycnogenol & Bilberry
Pycnogenol and Bilberry are both well-studied and well-known for their numerous health benefits.
Bilberry has demonstrated its use in treating dry eye, eye strain, and improving the function of the ciliary muscle. Pycnogenol has demonstrated potent antioxidant activity and numerous benefits for circulatory health.
In a clinical trial, supplementation of Pycnogenol and Bilberry demonstrated a significant reduction in intraocular pressure in patients with primary open-angle glaucoma (see study).
Forskolin & Rutin
Forskolin is the main active biochemical found in an Ayurvedic medicinal herb called Coleus Forskohlii. This herb as well as Forskolin have demonstrated numerous health benefits in relation to hormone health, weight loss, asthma and more.
Rutin is a plant pigment and bioflavonoid with potent circulatory health benefits. Studies suggest that it is highly useful in varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency as well as for preventing blood clots.
In a clinical trial, supplementation with Forskolin and Rutin in patients with primary open-angle glaucoma resulted in a reduction in intraocular pressure (see study).
Ginkgo Biloba is a very well-studied medicinal herb that has been used as a medicine for thousands of years. Its most notable benefits include improvement of cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer’s, improvement of the body’s ability to adapt to stress, treating vertigo with a potency similar to a standard anti-vertigo pharmaceutical drug known as Betahistine, treating proteinuria, and improving cerebral blood flow.
In the case of Glaucoma, Ginkgo Biloba supplementation has resulted in improvement of preexisting visual field damage in some patients with Normal Tension Glaucoma (see study). It is important to note that there are other studies with conflicting results, therefore, to make any conclusion about the efficacy of Ginkgo Biloba at this point would be premature. However, given that it has not resulted in any adverse effects in any of these studies, it may be worth a shot to try (as long as your doctor is in agreement).
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(Always use medicinal herbs under the supervision of a doctor)
by Dr. Nishal R.
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