What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye disease, which causes the fluid pressure in the eye to increase. If not detected and treated, this condition can lead to loss of vision and even blindness.
The front of the eye contains a small space known as the anterior chamber. A clear liquid known as aqueous humor, flows throughout the anterior chamber through a mesh channel, nourishing the tissues. If you have glaucoma, the channel gets blocked and the fluid builds up causing an increase in the pressure inside the eye. If the increased pressure, also known as intraocular pressure, is not brought down and controlled, the optic nerve that transmits the images to your brain, as well as, the other parts of the eye will get damaged. This condition worsens over time, leading to the loss of vision and if not treated, it can lead to permanent blindness within a few years.
Most often, glaucoma is not detected in the early stages and a person is unaware that they have the disease, which is why glaucoma is often referred to as “sneak thief of sight.” Typically, both eyes are affected by glaucoma; however, sometimes one eye can be affected more severely than the other. Usually, people over the age of 60 years are affected by glaucoma. However, if detected early, blindness can be prevented.
There are essentially two main types of glaucoma which occur commonly:
- Open-angle glaucoma: Also known as wide-angle glaucoma, this is the most common kind of glaucoma where the drain structure appears to be normal, but the fluid flow is not normal.
- Angle-closure glaucoma: This is also known as chronic or acute angle-closure or narrow-angle glaucoma, where the angle between the iris and cornea is too narrow and does not allow the eye to drain properly. This condition is more common in Asian countries. This is also linked to eye problems like cataract and farsightedness.
The other kinds of glaucoma are:
- Low-tension glaucoma: This is a rare form of glaucoma and although the eye seems to be normal, the optic nerve gets damaged. This type of glaucoma may be caused due to reduced blood flow to the optic nerve.
- Pigmentary glaucoma: This is a kind of open-angle glaucoma and occurs usually in the early or middle adulthood. In this case, the pigment cells from the iris get dispersed inside the eye and if these cells accumulate in the channels that drain the eye fluid, the normal flow gets interrupted causing the pressure in the eye to build up.
What Are The Symptoms Of Glaucoma?
Most people do not suffer from any symptoms. The first sign of glaucoma is, however, the loss of peripheral or side vision. However, some of these symptoms can indicate that you are suffering from glaucoma and if you notice any of the symptoms, it is a good idea to see your eye doctor immediately.
- Vision loss
- Seeing halos around lights
- Redness in the eye
- Blurred vision
- Hazy eyes, especially in the case of infants
- Severe pain in the eye
- Eye pain accompanied by nausea or vomiting
- Narrowed or tunnel vision
- Sudden vision problems, especially in low light conditions
What Are The Causes Of Glaucoma?
- Old age
- Inherited (passed on from parent to child)
- Family history of glaucoma
- Medical conditions like diabetes or heart disease
- Chemical or blunt eye injury
- Eye surgery
- Severe infection of the eye
- Blocked blood vessels in the eye
- Myopia (near sightedness)
- Eye tumour
- Advanced cataract
- Long term corticosteroid usage, especially eye drops containing corticosteroids.
- Ethnic background: African Americans, East Asians and Hispanic populations are usually at a higher risk of developing glaucoma, compared to Caucasians.
What Are The Things One Should Do To Manage Glaucoma?
- Take care of your eyes and meet your doctor regularly for check-ups and for the treatment of your condition, until it is under control.
- Glaucoma usually progresses very slowly and often has no symptoms. So, if you have glaucoma, it is important to understand your condition, as it can help you to manage the disease better.
- Make sure that you take your medications exactly as prescribed. Missing doses of the medication may worsen the condition. If you are taking medications for any other medical problem, make sure to inform your eye doctor about it.
- If the glaucoma condition is worsening and you find doing many activities such as driving and playing sports in the evening or night, etc. becoming a challenge, then it may be a good idea to rearrange your schedules and get help from others to help you manage. Letting some other person drive can help you stay safe.
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle by eating healthy and nutritious foods.
- A regular exercise routine and reduction of stress is vital for persons with glaucoma. Meditation and breathing exercises can alleviate stress and help you relax.
What Are The Things One Should Avoid To Manage Glaucoma?
- Avoid any medications, especially eye medications without checking with your doctor first, as some chemicals in the medicines may cause damage to your eyes.
- Avoid watching TV or looking at your computer or mobile screens for a long time.
- If you have any discomfort in your eyes or any symptoms, do not ignore them. Get them checked immediately.
What Are The Best Foods For Glaucoma?
- Consume foods that are high in antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin and rich in vitamins A, C, E and B vitamins. These nutrients can help to improve your eye health and fight glaucoma. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains are wonderful sources of these vital nutrients.
- Carrots and dark green leafy vegetables can help to reduce the risk of glaucoma by around 60 percent.
- Eat foods that contain complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, vegetables, and beans. These are healthy foods that can help to fight glaucoma.
- Eating nuts and fish that are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids can help to reduce the risk of glaucoma.
- Drinking green tea can help to protect the eyes, as studies have found that the aqueous humor and retina absorb the antioxidants present in the green tea.
What Are The Worst Foods For Glaucoma?
- Reduce or completely avoid salt if you are suffering from hypertensive glaucoma.
- Avoid high-calorie diets and fatty foods to prevent the increase in body fat. Avoid foods that are high in saturated and trans fats such as fatty foods, beef, and red meats. Avoid hydrogenated fats, shortening, margarine, etc., as these foods can increase your blood pressure.
- Avoid foods that increase your insulin level and make the glaucoma condition worse. Stay away from simple carbohydrates and foods like bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, cereal, refined sugars and baked goods.
- Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages and coffee as the caffeine can increase the blood pressure, in turn increasing the intraocular pressure.
What Are The Medicines For Glaucoma?
What Are The Tips To Manage Glaucoma?
- If you are over 40 years, then get a regular eye check-up once in 1-2 years.
- If you have near or far sightedness, get your eyes checked regularly and wear corrective glasses.
- If you have a family history of glaucoma or other health problems such as diabetes or other eye problems, then you must go to your doctor for an eye check-up more often.
- Exercise regularly, but be careful about the exercises you do, as some exercises can cause the intraocular pressure to increase.
- Don’t drink large amounts of liquid at a time as this may increase eye pressure. Drink small amounts spaced throughout the day.
- When you sleep, make sure that your head is elevated.
- If you have glaucoma, then talk to your family members or friends or join a support group. This can help you handle your health condition better.