glaucoma

The Sneak Thief of Sight

Being the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, Glaucoma is called the “Sneak Thief of Sight”. Despite the big number of Australians already diagnosed with glaucoma (Over 300,000) at present, 50% of people with glaucoma in Australia remain undiagnosed!

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye diseases in which the optic nerve at the back of the eye is slowly destroyed. In most people this damage is due to an increased pressure inside the eye - a result of blockage of the circulation of aqueous, or its drainage. In other patients the damage may be caused by poor blood supply to the vital optic nerve, a weakness in the structure of the nerve, and/or a problem in the health of the nerve fibres themselves.

What are the warning signs?

Unfortunately, most cases of glaucoma do not occur with readily noticeable symptoms that warn of the irreversible optic nerve damage being done. However, the presence of the following warning signs, indicates that you need a thorough examination by an eye doctor:

  • Unusual trouble adjusting to dark rooms
  • Difficulty focusing on near or distant objects
  • Squinting or blinking due to unusual sensitivity to light or glare
  • Change in color of iris
  • Red-rimmed, encrusted or swollen lids
  • Recurrent pain in or around eyes
  • Double vision
  • Dark spot at the center of viewing
  • Lines and edges appear distorted or wavy
  • Excess tearing or "watery eyes"
  • Dry eyes with itching or burning; and
  • Seeing spots, ghost-like images

The following may be indications of potentially serious problems that might require emergency medical attention:

  • Sudden loss of vision in one eye
  • Sudden hazy or blurred vision
  • Flashes of light or black spots
  • Halos or rainbows around light

The symptoms listed above may not necessarily mean that you have glaucoma. However, if you experience one or more of these symptoms, contact your eye doctor for a complete exam.

Who is at higher risk?

  • Diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes or past serious eye injuries
  • With a family history of Glaucoma
  • Short or long sighted
  • Previous or current use of Corticosteroid medications

What are the types of Glaucoma?

  1. The most common type of Glaucoma in Caucasians is open-angle glaucoma (OAG) in Caucasians (people of white-skinned or ‘European’ appearance). OAG occurs when the aqueous humour (the clear liquid that nourishes the inside of the front of the eye) does not drain properly, causing the pressure in the eye to rise and eventually damage the optic nerve
  2. In some Asian populations the most common type is Angle-closure glaucoma (ACG) it occurs when the peripheral part of the iris (the coloured part of the eye) blocks the outflow pathways. It can be sudden in onset or develop slowly over time. Glaucoma without high eye pressure (sometimes called normal tension glaucoma) occurs when there is progressive optic nerve damage and loss of peripheral vision, despite the eye pressures being within normal range for the population (or even below normal). Other risk factors appear to play a more important role than eye pressure.
  3. Secondary glaucoma can develop as a result of other conditions, such as eye injuries, cataracts, diabetes and inflammation of the eye, or the use of certain medications (particularly those containing steroids).
  4. Congenital glaucoma is a rare form of glaucoma present at birth or that develops in infants. It is caused by the improper development of the baby’s drainage channels and can lead to the eyes expanding in size, with excessive eye watering and light intolerance.

Are there treatments for Glaucoma?

Once diagnosed with glaucoma, patients are prescribed one type or more of prescription eye drops that generally lowers the eye(s) pressure to stop/slow the worsening of the condition.

Recommendations for general Eye health

Diet with anti-oxidants (including beta-carotene) as well as Omega3 Fatty acids is recommended for eye health

  • The following foods are rich in beta-carotene: Apricots, Asparagus, Broccoli, Carrots, Chinese cabbage, Chives, Dandelion leaves, Grapefruit, Herbs & Spices - chilli powder, oregano, paprika, parsley, Kale, Ketchup, Many margarines, Onions, Peas, Peppers, Plums, Pumpkin, Spinach, Squash and Sweet potatoes.
  • Deep sea fish (like Sardines, Tuna) have high content of Omega3 fatty acids.
  • Blue berries are rich in anthocyanin anti-oxidants that are good for maintaining eye health and retinal blood vessels strength. Supplements for eye health
  • Supplement that contains Beta-carotene: Ocuvite® also contains Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc and Copper. For General eye health and Macula health (also recommended for patients with macular degeneration).
  • Other Supplements for eye health: Blackmore MacuVision®, Blackmores LutinVision® and Blackmores MacuVision plus®.

Please visit us in store for advice and product recommendations.

References

Fred Hollows Australia
Glaucoma Australia
Australian Pharmaceutical Formulary - Complementary medicines monographs

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