Glaucoma affects more than two million Americans and is the second leading cause of blindness in this country. This can be a very serious disease that must be given med- ical care as soon as possible, if permanent vision loss is to be avoided. In the healthy eye, ﬂuid is produced and drained at equal rates. If the ﬂuid cannot drain properly, it builds up and puts pressure on the optic nerve, the retina, and the lens. This pressure can partially damage or even completely destroy the retina and the optic nerve.
If the outﬂow channels are open and become blocked with debris, the disorder is called open-angle glaucoma. Chronic open-angle glaucoma is the most common form and usually occurs over the years. Fluid drains too slowly from the anterior chamber of the eye and pressure builds up. At ﬁrst, increased pressure in the eyes produces no symptoms. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include narrowing peripheral vision, mild headaches, and vague visual disturbances, such as seeing halos around electric lights or having diff iculty adapting to darkness. At some point, tunnel vision—where the visual ﬁeld narrows and makes it hard to see anything on either side when looking forward—may develop.
If the channels are blocked by the iris, the disorder is called closed-angle glaucoma. Fluid pressure increases quickly and causes intense pain in one eye, along with headaches and vision problems, including blurring or a “halo effect” around lights. The eyeball feels hard to the touch, and the pain may be so severe that it causes nau- sea and even vomiting. The eyelid swells, and the eye becomes red and watery. These symptoms are warning signs that you must receive medical care immediately.
Permanent vision loss and even total blindness can settle in after just a few days. For- tunately, acute glaucoma is rather rare and accounts for only 10 percent of all glau- coma cases. Certain medications, long periods spent in darkness, and stress are all potential triggers for an attack.
Since the disease targets older people most frequently, anyone over sixty-ﬁve should make glaucoma tests part of their annual eye exam. African Americans, who have a much higher incidence of glaucoma than the rest of the population does, should start getting annual tests after the age of forty, as should anyone with diabetes. If at any age you experience a loss of peripheral vision, constant low-level headaches, eye pain, or blurred vision that is not corrected with one new lens prescription, see a doctor at once. If you test positive for glaucoma, you may not be able to recover the damage that’s already been done, but there’s a good chance that you can signiﬁcantly slow the progress of the disease.
There does not seem to be one single cause of glaucoma. Most likely, a variety of factors come into play. A good strategy for prevention, as well as treatment in con- junction with a doctor’s care, incorporates reducing the general number of toxins in the body, eating foods that support the eye, correcting nutritional deﬁciencies asso- ciated with glaucoma, enhancing digestion, avoiding medications that predispose one to glaucoma, and reducing stress.
SYMPTOMS OF OPEN-ANGLE GLAUCOMA
• Narrowing peripheral vision
• Mild headaches
• Vague visual disturbances
• Tunnel vision
SYMPTOMS OF CLOSED-ANGLE GLAUCOMA
Chronic glaucoma is usually asymptomatic until irreversible damage has already been done. Signs that chronic glaucoma has already progressed include the following:
• Intense pain in one eye, with vision problems
• Nausea and vomiting
• Swollen eyelid
• Red, watery eye
• Vision loss
• Accumulation of wastes and meta- bolic slowdown related to aging
• High blood pressure
• Some prescription drugs, including corticosteroids, antidepressants, and blood pressure medication
• Certain illness, such as other eye disorders (especially macular degeneration) and diabetes
• Nutritional deﬁciency
If you have glaucoma of either kind, you must be under a doctor’s care. The therapies listed here will complement and support your conventional treatment. Natural ther- apies work very well for chronic and open-angle glaucoma.
The following tests help assess possible reasons for glaucoma: Blood pressure
Hormone testing (thyroid)—saliva, blood, or urine
Vitamin and mineral analysis (especially magnesium, vitamin C)—blood Food and environmental allergies/sensitivities—blood, electrodermal Blood-sugar balance—blood
Eat a basic, wholesome diet based on whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Carotenoids are essential for optimum eye health. Consume plenty of orange, yel- low, and green leafy vegetables. It is also highly recommended that you drink live juice made from these and other fruits and vegetables several times a day.
The bioﬂavonoid anthocyanidin ﬁghts free radicals and helps keep the collagen around the eye healthy and ﬂexible. Blueberries and cherries are excellent sources.
Drink a glass of clean water every two waking hours to ﬂush out toxins and to keep the eye tissues supple. Spread your consumption of water and other liquids out across the day, so that you do not build up pressure in your eye.
Some studies have shown ﬁsh oils to lower eye pressure. Incorporate fatty ﬁsh such as salmon, mackerel, and cod into your meals two or three times a week.
Chromium and magnesium both have beneﬁcial effects on glaucoma. Brewer’s yeast is the best source of chromium; kelp, leafy greens, apples, and safﬂower and sesame oils will provide you with magnesium.
I do not take
Food to Avoid
Fluid retention in the eye may be a response to food allergies. See the Food Allergies
consumption of a certain food makes your eyes red, irritated, painful, or tender, you
f you have glau-
the herb ephedra (Ma huang), which dilates the pupils and may increase eye pressure.
section to determine whether a food is contributing to your problem. If you ﬁnd that
must avoid that product from now on.
Caffeine has been shown to reduce blood ﬂow to the eye, so avoid coffee, choco- late, and caffeinated teas and sodas.
A toxic liver may be related to eye problems. Avoid alcohol, which puts a terrible burden on this essential organ.
Super Seven Prescriptions—Glaucoma
Super Prescription #1 Magnesium
Take 250 mg twice daily. Magnesium relaxes the blood vessel walls and improves blood ﬂow to the eye.
Super Prescription #2 Vitamin C
Take 1,000 mg two to four times daily. Studies show that vitamin C supplementa- tion reduces eye pressure.
Super Prescription #3 Fish oil
Take a formula containing a daily dose of 600 mg of EPA and 400 mg of DHA. Animal studies using this supplement show a signif icant drop in intraocular pressure.
Super Prescription #4 Alpha lipoic acid
Take 100 mg twice daily. This antioxidant has been shown to improve vision for some people with this disease.
Studies using 2,000 mg or more a day
of vitamin C demon- strate that this nutrient lowers intraocular pressure in people.
Super Prescription #5 Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)
Take 160 mg twice daily of a 25 percent anthocyanosides extract. Bilberry improves blood flow and contains flavonoids that support eye structure and function.
Super Prescription #6 Ginkgo biloba
Take 60 mg three times daily of a 24 percent ﬂavone glycoside extract. Ginkgo has been shown to be helpful for glaucoma. It improves blood ﬂow and contains ﬂavonoids that support eye structure and function.
Super Prescription #7 Chromium
Take 250 to 500 mcg twice daily. It is particularly important for people with dia- betes to supplement for blood-sugar balance and the prevention of glaucoma.
Grape seed extract or maritime pine bark improves circulation. Take 100 to 200 mg daily.
Rutin is a bioﬂavonoid that has been shown in older studies to help glaucoma. Take 20 mg three times daily.
Chronic glaucoma is a constitutional disorder, so see a homeopathic practitioner for a speciﬁc remedy that suits your individual tendencies and needs.
These points are especially helpful for people who use their eyes a great deal and suf- fer from eyestrain. For information about pressure points and administering treatment, see pages 668–675.
• Stomach 3 relieves pressure on the eyes.
• Bladder 10 soothes eyes that are tired and red from eyestrain.
• Improve blood ﬂow to your head and eyes by working Large Intestine 3 and 4.
Massage can’t relieve glaucoma directly, but neck and head massage will ease stress and improve circulation to the eye area.
Chiropractic, craniosacral, or osteopathic treatments may also be helpful.
See pages 686–687 for information about reﬂexology areas and how to work them.
Work the areas corresponding to the eyes, the neck, and the kidneys.
study found that vita- min C reduced intraocular pressure by a whopping 16 mm Hg. An even more aggressive
approach is to consult with a physician who uses intravenous vita- min C. The beneﬁts of vitamin C are only present as long as one is supplementing this nutrient.
Stress is a trigger for acute glaucoma and may be a contributing factor in the chronic version. Many oils can help you handle tension and anxiety, but here are some good ones to start: bergamot, jasmine, lavender, rose, sandalwood, or ylang ylang. You can use them in any preparation you like, but do be sure not to rely on just one oil, as it might lose some of its effects from overuse.
General Stress-Reduction Therapies
Stress may contribute to glaucoma, and it’s deﬁnitely caused by glaucoma: For many people, vision problems mark a signiﬁcant change of life. Consider learning to med- itate. You’ll reduce daily tension, and you can practice the technique for the rest of your life, no matter what the condition of your eyes.
Bach Flower Remedies
Select the appropriate remedy and place 10 drops of the liquid under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
For an attack of acute glaucoma, Rescue Remedy can help you handle the pain calmly as you seek professional help. Do not use Rescue Remedy in place of med- ical care.
Within the Bach remedy philosophy, eye problems are thought to be connected to clouded internal vision and a refusal to see the world as it is.
If you tend to be dreamy and live in a fantasy world, try Clematis.
Honeysuckle is for people who want to avoid present concerns and spend a great deal of time in nostalgia for the past.
If you have vague, general fears that you can’t name, let alone confront, take Aspen.
Avoid eyestrain from reading or working at computer terminals for long periods. Take frequent breaks and look away from the screen or your reading material often.
Don’t watch television in the dark. Prolonged periods in the darkness with the pupils dilated can bring on acute glaucoma.
Tobacco smoke reduces blood ﬂow to the retina, so don’t smoke. You must also avoid smoky rooms, bars, and restaurants.
Mild to moderate aerobic exercise can reduce eye pressure, so ﬁnd an activity you enjoy and make it a daily habit.
Wear sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays; both kinds of light create free rad- icals that have been linked to glaucoma.