- Diet: Eating a healthy diet can help maintain eye and overall health. However, it may not directly prevent glaucoma from worsening. Vitamins C, E, and A and nutrients like zinc, copper, and selenium are important for eye health.
- Exercise: Regular moderate exercise may reduce eye pressure in open-angle glaucoma. A doctor can help design an appropriate exercise program. However, certain exercises like head tilt must be avoided because it can increase pressure over the head.
- Reduce caffeine: Drinking beverages with high caffeine content can increase eye pressure.
- Adequate hydration: Limiting drinking to moderate amounts of fluids throughout the day. Drinking a quart or more of any liquid within a short time may temporarily increase eye pressure.
- Head end elevation: Using a wedge pillow that keeps the head slightly elevated at about 20 degrees, can reduce eye pressure while sleeping.
- Stress management: Stress can trigger an attack of acute angle-closure glaucoma. Seeking professional help, practicing relaxation techniques like meditation to manage stress may help.
- Eye protection: Wearing protective eyewear while playing sports or working to avoid eye injuries.
- Treatment of underlying medical conditions: Treatment of medical conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, that can cause or worsen glaucoma is required.
- Herbal remedies: Some herbal remedies like consuming bilberry extract have been advertised as glaucoma remedies but lack scientific proof. It is advised not to use herbal supplements in place of proven medical therapies.
- Regular eye check-ups: It is advised to get eyes checked regularly, especially those above the age of 40 and those who are at high risk. This helps in early diagnosis and treatment.
- Taking medication as advised: Using prescription eye drops or other medications and following the doctor’s advice can help worsen glaucoma.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, which is essential for vision. This damage is caused by abnormally high pressure in the eye. It can occur at any age but is more common in older adults and is one of the leading causes of blindness in people aged over 60. Glaucoma may not have symptoms until the condition is at an advanced stage. The vision loss due to glaucoma can't be recovered, hence, it's important to have regular eye check-ups for early diagnosis and treatment.
What causes glaucoma?
Glaucoma occurs because of optic nerve damage. The nerve gradually deteriorates, causing blind spots to develop in the visual field. The exact cause of this is unknown, but it is believed that the nerve damage usually occurs due to increased pressure in the eye.
Eye pressure increases due to the build-up of internal fluid (aqueous humor) that flows throughout the eyes. The fluid normally drains through a tissue called the trabecular meshwork at the angle where the iris (colored part of the eye) and cornea meet. If there is an overproduction of the fluid or the fluid does not drain properly, the fluid builds up causing increased eye pressure.
What are the symptoms of glaucoma?
The signs and symptoms depend on the type and stage of the condition:
- Patchy blind spots in on the sides (peripheral) or central vision, usually in both eyes
- Tunnel vision occurs in the advanced stages
How is glaucoma treated?
The damage caused by glaucoma can't be reversed. Early treatment and regular follow-ups can help slow or prevent vision loss, especially in the early stages. Treatment options include:
Prescription eye drops:
- Prostaglandins: These increase the drainage of the fluid in the eye (aqueous humor), resulting in decreased eye pressure.
- Beta-blockers: These reduce the production of fluid in the eye, resulting in decreased eye pressure.
- Alpha-adrenergic agonists: These reduce the production of eye fluid and increase the drainage of fluid.
- Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors: These reduce the production of fluid in the eye.
- Rho-kinase inhibitor: This suppresses the enzyme and rho kinase responsible for the fluid increase.
- Miotic or cholinergic agents: These increase the drainage of eye fluid.
- Oral medications, such as carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, may be prescribed.
Surgery and other therapies:
- Laser therapy: Laser trabeculoplasty may be done for open-angle glaucoma. A small laser beam is used to open clogged channels in the trabecular meshwork.
- Trabeculectomy: A part of the trabecular meshwork is removed.
- Drainage tubes: A small tube/shunt is inserted in the eye to drain excess fluid and lower eye pressure.
- Minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS): This procedure reduces eye pressure, usually requires less postoperative care, and has less risk than trabeculectomy or installing a drainage device. They can be combined with cataract surgery.
Treating acute angle-closure glaucoma:
- This is a medical emergency and usually will require both emergency medical and laser or other surgical procedures. Laser peripheral iridotomy is a procedure in which a small opening is created in the iris using a laser. This results in fluid drainage relieving eye pressure.
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