Glaucoma is a slowly progressing disease that causes damage to the eye's
optic nerve and can result in blindness. Open-angle glaucoma, the most common
form of the disease, affects about three million Americans. It is the leading
cause of blindness for African-Americans. Because there are usually no symptoms
at first, half of the people with this disease don't know they have it. With
early treatment, serious vision loss and blindness can usually be
|Signs and Symptoms|
While symptoms do not initially occur, as the disease progresses, you can
lose peripheral (side) vision and then forward vision. Some signs can only be
found during an eye exam, such as increased pressure inside the eye and optic
|What Causes It?|
A clear fluid flows in and out of the space at the front of the eye,
nourishing nearby tissues. Glaucoma causes the fluid to pass through too slowly
or to stop draining altogether. As the fluid builds up, the pressure inside the
eye increases, causing damage to the optic nerve and vision
|Who's Most At Risk?|
People with the following conditions or characteristics are at risk for
- Over 60 years of age
- Family history
- African-American descent
- Myopia (near-sightedness)
- Taking certain drugs, such as antihistamines or blood pressure
- Food sensitivities
- Sedentary lifestyle
|What to Expect at Your Provider's Office|
It is important to have your eyes examined on a regular basis to check for
glaucoma. If you are experiencing symptoms, you should see your eye care
To detect glaucoma, your eye care professional will perform the following
- Visual acuity—use of an eye chart measures
how well you see at various distances
- Visual field—measures your peripheral
- Pupil dilation—drops are placed into the eye
to dilate (widen) the pupil; this gives your eye care professional a better view
of the optic nerve to check for signs of damage.
- Tonometry—determines the fluid pressure
inside the eye; one type uses a purple light while another type uses a puff of
While glaucoma is not preventable, early detection and treatment are the best
defenses against serious visual damage. At-risk patients should avoid medicines
that increase eye pressure.
The primary goal of treatment is to minimize loss of vision by reducing
pressure in the eye.
Eye drops and pills are the most common early treatment for glaucoma. Some
cause the eye to produce less fluid, while others lower pressure by helping
fluid drain from the eye.
|Surgical and Other Procedures|
While glaucoma surgery may save remaining vision, it does not improve
- Laser surgery—makes 50 to 100 evenly spaced
burns that stretch the drainage holes in the eye, allowing fluid to drain more
- Conventional surgery—creates a new channel
for fluid to drain from the eye
|Complementary and Alternative Therapies|
A comprehensive treatment plan for glaucoma may include a range of
complementary and alternative therapies.
Nutritional tips include the following.
- Eat foods rich in bioflavonoids and carotenes, such as dark berries,
dark leafy greens, and yellow and orange vegetables.
- Eliminate food allergens.
- Reduce foods that may dramatically alter levels of sugar in your
blood, such as sweets, fruits, and refined foods.
Potentially beneficial nutrient supplements include the
- Vitamin C (500 to 1,000 mg three times per day)
- Vitamin E (400 to 800 IU per day) and vitamin A (10,000 IU per day) or
beta carotene (25,000 IU per day), thiamine (10 mg per day)
- Coenzyme Q10 (100 mg one to two times per day), which may minimize
side effects of certain drug therapies
- Zinc (30 mg per day) and selenium (200 mcg per day)
- Omega-3 fatty acids (300 to 500 mg daily)
- Melatonin (2 to 5 mg before
The use of herbal remedies may offer relief from symptoms. Herbs are
generally available as dried extracts (pills, capsules, or tablets), teas, or
tinctures (alcohol extraction, unless otherwise noted). Dose for teas is 1
heaping tsp. per cup of water steeped for 10 minutes (roots need 20
- Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) 100 to 200 mg two times per
- Rutin 20 mg three times per day, for associated allergies
- Hawthorn berries (Crataegus monogyna) 200 mg two times per day,
especially for high blood pressure
- Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) 120 mg two times per day to improve
- Combine equal parts of ginkgo, hawthorn, bilberry, and elderberry
(Sambucus nigra) in a tea (three cups per day) or tincture (60 drops two
times per day) to strengthen vascular tissues and improve
An experienced homeopath could prescribe a regimen for treating glaucoma that
is designed especially for you. Acute dose is three to five pellets of 12X to 30
C every one to four hours until symptoms are relieved. Some of the most common
acute remedies are listed below.
- Phosphorus for vertigo
- Physostigma for muscle spasms and neurological
- Spigelia for sharp
If glaucoma is not treated early, some vision loss can occur. If you have
glaucoma in one eye, your provider may recommend treating your other eye as
well, since it is at risk for the same disease process.
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|Review Date: March 2000|
|Reviewed By: Leonard Wisneski, MD, FACP, George Washington University, Rockville,
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