Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in people who are 60 years old and over. A fairly common condition, glaucoma causes damage to the eye’s optic nerve. Our optic nerve is vital for healthy vision and damage caused by glaucoma is mostly irreversible.
While it’s most common in older adults, glaucoma can also occur at any age. Sadly, many forms of glaucoma have little or no warning signs. This means that the damage is often so gradual that people do not notice a change in vision until the condition is quite advanced.
What Causes Glaucoma?
Generally, glaucoma is caused by abnormally high pressure in the eyes. However, there are other risk factors that can cause the onset of this condition such as family history, thin corneas, and ethnicity.
The three types of glaucoma include open-angle glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma, and normal-tension glaucoma. Below are some of the most common factors that may put you at risk of developing glaucoma:
Risk Factors For Glaucoma Include:
- High eye pressure
- Family history of glaucoma
- 40 and older for African Americans
- 60 and older for the general population
- Thin corneas
- Suspicious optic nerve appearance with increased cupping (the space at the center of the optic nerve, is larger than normal)
Risk Factors For Open-Angle Glaucoma Include:
- High myopia (very severe nearsightedness)
- Eye surgery or injury
- High blood pressure
- Use of corticosteroids (for example, eye drops, pills, inhalers, and creams)
Risk Factors For Angle-Closure Glaucoma Include:
- Age 40 and older
- Family history of glaucoma
- Poor short-distance vision (farsightedness)
- Eye injury or eye surgery
- East Asian and Inuit ethnicity
- Risk Factors for normal-tension glaucoma
- Cardiovascular disease
- Family history of glaucoma
- Low eye pressure
- Japanese ethnicity
Ways To Prevent Glaucoma:
Because vision loss due to glaucoma can’t be recovered, it’s important to take as many precautions as possible. Most importantly, try to have regular eye exams where the optometrist measures your eye pressure. This way, if there is a problem, a diagnosis can be made in the early stages and treated appropriately. If glaucoma is recognized early, vision loss can be slowed or even prevented.
If you’re at risk of developing glaucoma, medical experts recommend a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a nutritious diet to improve your overall physical and mental well-being. Take note of the following tips to maintain a healthy lifestyle:
Tips For a Lowering Glaucoma Risk:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Keep your blood pressure at a normal level
- Don’t smoke or drink excessive amounts of alcohol
- Limit caffeine intake to moderate levels, because some evidence suggests that high amounts of caffeine may increase eye pressure
- Try to exercise daily by doing physical activities such as walking, swimming, or working in the yard
- Prevent over exposure to sunlight by wearing sunglasses and hats when you’re outdoors
- Get regular, comprehensive eye exams, and consult your doctor if you notice changes in your vision
- If you are African American, taking prescription eye drops could cut your risk of getting glaucoma in half
Did you know including certain foods in your diet can also help protect and improve the health of your eyes? Here is a list of vision-boosting foods to eat:
Foods That Contain Carotenoids
Foods containing carotenoids are thought to help your body defend itself against several medical conditions, including glaucoma. Research indicates that carotenoids may help protect your eyes from the damaging effects of blue light and reduce your risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) later in life. Carotenoids are found mostly in carrots and dark, leafy greens such as spinach, collard greens, and kale. Carotenoids are also found in yellow corn, okra, broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, mango, green beans, sweet potatoes, lima beans, squash, bell peppers, and egg yolks.
Foods High In Vitamin C
Vitamin C is good for the blood vessels in your eyes, and science suggests it could lower your risk of getting cataracts too. Foods that are high in vitamin C include peppers, citrus fruits, tomatoes, broccoli, strawberries, sweet and white potatoes, leafy greens and cantaloupe.
Foods High in Vitamin E
A large study found that vitamin E, together with other nutrients, can help slow age-related macular degeneration from getting worse. These foods include eggs, fortified cereals, fruit, wheat germ, green leafy vegetables, nuts, nut oils, vegetable oils, and whole grains.
Foods Containing Vitamin A
Plant-based forms of Vitamin A, such as sweet potatoes, and mango have proven to lower your risk of long-term eye diseases, including AMD and cataracts. It is thought that most western diets don’t get nearly enough Vitamin A, so be sure to make an effort to include Vitamin A rich foods in your diet.
Foods Containing Zinc
Zinc brings Vitamin A from your liver to your retina, here it is used to make a protective pigment called melanin. Oysters have more zinc per serving than any other food, and foods like chickpeas, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, and lentils are a good source of zinc too.
Foods With Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s have also been shown to protect your eyes from AMD and glaucoma. Low levels of these fatty acids have also been linked to dry eyes. So be sure to fill your diet with salmon, sardines, walnuts, flax seeds, and chia seeds to up your fatty acid intake to help protect your eyes.
What Foods to Avoid
While a healthy diet that is low in processed foods and sugar is beneficial for your all-round health, there are no specific foods to avoid when it comes to glaucoma. However, there is a link between excessive caffeine consumption and a rise in eye pressure. While a few cups of coffee won’t cause harm, moderation is key. So if you do drink a lot of coffee, think of switching to something else or at least swap a portion of your daily cups of coffee to decaf.