Everyone is becoming more health-conscious, knowing the importance of regular health check-ups. But have you considered routine check-ups for your “eyes”? Be cautious, as the health of your eyes might be quietly slipping away.
What is Glaucoma?
The English term for glaucoma, “Glaucoma,” originates from the Greek word “Glaukos,” which means “bluish-green.” In advanced stages, the cornea of glaucoma patients becomes hazy due to swelling degeneration, displaying a bluish-green color, hence the name.
Before discussing glaucoma, let’s first introduce what aqueous humor is.
💡 Aqueous humor is a transparent liquid located between the cornea and the lens, providing nourishment for avascular tissues within the eye. To maintain normal vision function, the eye needs to maintain a certain range of pressure within the eyeball. This requires the aqueous humor secreted by the ciliary body.
After secretion by the ciliary body, aqueous humor passes through the pupil to reach the anterior chamber. Subsequently, it flows out through the trabecular meshwork of the anterior chamber and the Schlemm’s canal. Under normal physiological conditions, the production and drainage of aqueous humor maintain a dynamic equilibrium, crucial for maintaining eye pressure.
However, when the drainage of aqueous humor is blocked, it accumulates, causing increased eye pressure. Elevated eye pressure presses against the optic nerve at the back of the eye, leading to apoptotic cell death of the nerve cells and cupping and atrophy of the optic nerve head. The damaged optic nerve cannot regenerate, ultimately resulting in permanent vision loss. This series of progressive processes constitutes the onset of glaucoma.
In simple terms, glaucoma is a disease involving the degeneration or atrophy of the optic nerve, leading to narrow vision and, consequently, blindness.
It’s worth noting that although high or low eye pressure is one of the criteria for diagnosing glaucoma, a small percentage of glaucoma patients clinically exhibit normal eye pressure. Conversely, some individuals with high eye pressure don’t have glaucoma. This might be due to differences in the threshold of pressure that the optic nerve can withstand in each person. Therefore, besides eye pressure, testing for visual fields, eye structures (such as corneal thickness), or optic nerve fibers can confirm the presence of glaucoma.
Causes of Glaucoma
- Genetics: Family history of glaucoma
- Age: Diminished aqueous humor outflow function with age
- High blood pressure
- Severe myopia (greater than 600 degrees) or hyperopia
- Autoimmune diseases
- Long-term use of steroid eye medications or oral steroids
- Eye trauma
- Eye inflammation, such as iritis or uveitis
Is This a Precursor to Glaucoma?
Some common precursors of glaucoma include feeling eye fatigue or suspecting inadequate eyeglass prescription, even with normal eye pressure. Additionally, increased reliance on light to see clearly, blurred vision (as if looking through dirty glasses), missing words while reading, and difficulty distinguishing colors could also signal potential glaucoma symptoms. At this stage, it is strongly recommended to actively visit an ophthalmologist for further assessment.
Is this a precursor to glaucoma?
Some common warning signs of glaucoma, such as feeling eye fatigue or suspecting that your glasses prescription isn’t sufficient</span, along with an increased dependence on brighter light to see clearly and experiencing blurry vision (as if looking through dirty glasses), missing words while reading, and difficulty distinguishing colors, are indications that require prompt consultation with an eye specialist.
- Age over 40 years
- Family history of glaucoma
- Decreased night vision
- Unexplained rapid deterioration of vision
- Migraines, cold extremities, and low blood pressure
- High-risk groups for hypertension, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol
- High myopia (greater than 600 degrees) with cataracts
- Long-term use of steroid eye drops
- History of eye injury, iritis, uveitis, tumors, or intraocular hemorrhage
Diagnosing glaucoma requires multiple examinations, with results interpreted by a physician based on their experience. Therefore, if any of the above criteria apply, it is recommended to seek further examination by an ophthalmologist and undergo regular eye check-ups to ensure eye health.
What are the Symptoms (Signs) of Glaucoma?
- Sudden eye pain
- Redness of the eyes
- Significant blurry vision
- Headache, nausea, or even vomiting
- Mild symptoms: Seeing halos around lights at night, occasional eye soreness, relieved with rest
- Severe symptoms: Night vision difficulties, narrowing of the field of vision leading to mobility problems, ultimately resulting in blindness.
What are the Treatment Methods for Glaucoma?
Glaucoma results from damage to the optic nerve and is an irreversible eye condition. Therefore, the primary goal of treating glaucoma is to slow down the progression of the disease rather than reverse optic nerve damage.
💡The primary treatment approach for glaucoma focuses on reducing intraocular pressure (IOP) through three main steps: medications, laser treatment, and surgery.
Medications are administered through different methods, including eye drops, injections, and oral medications. These drugs work through various pharmacological mechanisms to reduce aqueous humor production and enhance its outflow, thereby lowering eye pressure. Common medications include Pilocarpine, Brimonidine, and Timolol, among others.
Laser procedures aim to enhance the flow of aqueous humor through the drainage system. Currently, laser treatments can be performed on an outpatient basis. The most common laser treatments include iridotomy, trabeculoplasty, and iridoplasty, selected based on the type of glaucoma.
When medications and laser treatment fail to control elevated eye pressure, surgery is the last resort. The most common surgical intervention is trabeculectomy.
How Can Glaucoma Be Prevented?
Glaucoma can be prevented by adjusting your lifestyle. Avoid using mobile phones or tablets in dark rooms, practice good eye habits, and refrain from extended use of computers, mobile phones, and electronic devices. In terms of diet, it’s advisable to limit the intake of coffee and alcoholic beverages and cultivate a balanced dietary approach.
Following a search of research literature, it has been found that three categories of nutrients may help prevent glaucoma, which are introduced to provide you with some insights.
Vitamins are common nutrients known for their antioxidant properties and their potential for neuroprotection. Therefore, several studies advocate that increasing the consumption of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of developing glaucoma. For instance, research has shown that incorporating foods like kale, bilberries, peaches, oranges, spinach, and goji berries into your diet can reduce the risk of glaucoma. Another study found that daily supplementation of vitamin A, B1, B2, or B3 can reduce the risk of glaucoma, improving retinal function. Conversely, a diet lacking in vitamin A, B1, or excessive magnesium intake is associated with a higher incidence of glaucoma.
Bilberry, also known as European blueberry, closely resembles blueberries in appearance and is rich in various phytochemicals, with anthocyanosides being the most abundant. Clinical studies have shown that bilberry can help alleviate eye fatigue and improve dry eye symptoms. A long-term study spanning up to 2 years found that supplementing with bilberry extract effectively improved the visual function of glaucoma patients.
The 2017 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in the United States found that an increase in EPA/DHA intake is associated with a decreased risk of optic nerve damage in gl
aucoma. Another long-term study involving 17,128 individuals also discovered that a lower ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 intake is associated with a higher risk of glaucoma.
💡 Experimental evidence has shown that daily supplementation of approximately 1500mg of Omega-3 (EPA+DHA) for three months significantly reduces the potential for elevated eye pressure caused by glaucoma.
This article explores a severe but often overlooked eye condition, providing insights into its progression, high-risk populations, symptoms of onset, and treatment options. Additionally, the most recent research findings regarding foods and nutrients that may aid in preventing glaucoma and reducing eye pressure are shared.