Did you know that glaucoma can lead to you losing as much as 40% of your vision, without you even realising you had glaucoma? That’s why this condition is called the ‘sneak thief of sight’. What exactly is glaucoma, and how can you prevent it?
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is not one but a family of eye conditions – there are about 30 different types – that affect pressure within the eye and damage the optic nerve. This leads to pain and blurred vision. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide and the especially scary aspect of this condition is that you probably won’t notice any symptoms until it’s too late and your vision is already severely damaged. Permanent vision loss follows.
The most common types are open angle glaucoma and closed angle glaucoma.
Open angle glaucoma
This is the form that has earned the title ‘sneak thief of sight’ because it creeps up on you. You feel no pain or symptoms, but you gradually see less and less and eventually develop tunnel vision (when it feels like you are looking through a tunnel) and even blindness. Open angle glaucoma affects 90% of diagnosed patients.
Closed angle glaucoma
The symptoms of closed angle (or angle-closure) glaucoma are easier to recognise: eye pain, blurred vision, nausea and vomiting, vision issues in low light, halos around light sources and red eyes. The outlook for untreated patients is also potential blindness.
- Are older than 60
- Have a family history of glaucoma
- Are of African or Asian rather than Caucasian origin
- Have diabetes
- Are long-term users of steroids
- Suffer with myopia (shortsightedness)
- Have experienced a blunt injury that bruises the eye (these are generally sports-related), retinal detachment, eye tumours, eye inflammation or certain eye surgeries
- Eye drops to reduce intraocular pressure
- Medication that either reduces the rate at which fluid in the eye is produced or increases the outflow of fluid from the eye
- Laser treatment to open the drainage angle and reduce intraocular pressure
- Surgery to create a new passage for fluid drainage. Surgery is usually reserved for cases that cannot be controlled by medication.
- Visit your ophthalmologist every one or two years for an examination, especially if you’re older than 40.
- You can also help prevent or at least reduce the effects of glaucoma on your vision by eating a healthy diet and wearing eye protection to prevent eye injury.
- Bilberry extract has shown promising results in supporting eye health and in helping defend or treat cataracts and glaucoma. You can order Flora Force Bilberry capsules at http://www.floraforce.co.za/products/bilberry-capsules/
- Ginkgo biloba improves blood flow to the retina (the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye). Extracts of ginkgo appear to improve vision in people with glaucoma. Find Flora Force Ginkgo Biloba capsules at www.floraforce.co.za/products/gingko-capsules/
- Green tea contains antioxidants that attack free radicals, which cause the damage that lead to many chronic diseases, including glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts. Order Flora Force Chinese Green Tea capsules at www.floraforce.co.za/products/chinese-green-tea-capsules/
- Discovery Eye Foundation. Glaucoma Awareness Month. 2015. Jan. http://discoveryeye.org/blog/glaucoma-awareness-month/
- Glaucoma Research Foundation. www.glaucoma.org/
- Pretoria Eye Institute. Glaucoma. www.eyeinstitute.co.za/C_Glaucoma.asp
- Photo of eye courtesy of TobiasD / Pixabay.com
- Photo of tunnel vision by National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
How does glaucoma affect the eye?
Inside your eyes is a clear fluid called aqueous humor, which circulates through the eye, then exits through the anterior chamber angle and ultimately drains into the bloodstream. The fluid creates an internal pressure in the eye. In glaucoma sufferers, the flow of aqueous humor is obstructed, resulting in increased eye pressure and, eventually, optic nerve damage. In closed angle glaucoma, the eye’s drainage canals get blocked or covered over, like a sink with a blocked plughole. The eye pressure usually rises very quickly.
Are you likely to get glaucoma?
Although glaucoma is most common in adults over the age of 40, age is not the only criterion for the condition. Research shows that people are also at greater risk if they:
How is glaucoma treated?
Glaucoma treatment aims to decrease pressure in the eye and prevent permanent damage to the optic nerve. Treatment varies according to the type of glaucoma you have. The patient is usually prescribed:
How to avoid glaucoma
It’s vital to detect the presence of glaucoma early to avoiding permanent loss of vision.
Natural remedies to help prevent glaucoma
Acknowledgements & Photo credits
Article compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer.