Three simple ways to minimise the effects of Glaucoma

Posted 5 years ago

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Hester Duplessis, one of our experienced Wanaka and Queenstown optometrists discusses the how a few small lifestyles changes can have big effect on controlling Glaucoma.  

In short, glaucoma occurs when something damages the optic nerve, so images are not able to transmitted to the brain correctly. In most cases, the damage to the optic nerve is a result of high fluid pressure inside the eye itself - known as intraocular pressure or IOP. When left untreated the delicate tissues of the optic nerve erode and blindness can occur.

With a diagnosis of glaucoma comes a plethora of questions - and for most of the patients I see, these questions are generally centred around what they can do to help and protect their eyes from disease progression.

It should be stated that lifestyle modifications are a hard thing to study conclusively  (as the variables are too great) but here I address are three simple changes you can make right away -  that have been shown to control glaucoma.

  1. Sleep. Intraocular pressure is higher at night when in supine position. Sleeping face down can raise the pressure even more (which is bad for those with glaucoma). Try Elevating the head of your bed. In cases where one eye is worse than the other, try to avoid sleeping on the side of the worse eye. Both of these methods can help to reduce the increase in pressure while sleeping.

  2. Exercise. Aerobic exercise has shown to acutely reduce IOP. The effects may not be as long-lasting, but you still have the benefit of lower IOP as compared to someone with a sedentary lifestyle. In terms of exercise specifics, it important to be aware that  weightlifting could increase the IOP modestly, and although the clinical significance is unclear at this stage, it is generally recognised that long-term benefits of weightlifting as a form of exercise are still beneficial. Yoga is becoming more popular but be careful of all those head-down positions as after a few minutes IOP measurements can double!

  3. Diet and supplements. This is the tough one, because studies rely on self-reporting of patients. However we do know that a healthy diet does play a part in keeping your eyes well. Antioxidants: Studies are inconclusive as to the relationship between antioxidants and glaucoma, but in one prospective study, no relationship between glaucoma and the intake of Vitamin C, Vitamin E or carotenoids were found. Omega-3 and -6: Although additional studies are needed, it may be reasonable to encourage patients to consume foods high in Omega-3 and limit intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Caffeine: although small to moderate amounts may be reasonable, heavy caffeine consumption is discouraged. Studies have shown that 5 cups of coffee or more played a significant role in increased IOP.

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