Is Glaucoma Stealing Your Sight?
My husband has had glaucoma in both eyes for several years. His last checkup showed that the intraocular pressure in his eye is too high -- even though he's been using the eyedrops his doctor prescribed. Are there any nutritional changes that would be helpful? What are the risks with surgery?
Glaucoma, a type of optic nerve damage, is one of the leading causes of vision loss and blindness in the United States. One type of glaucoma -- called "acute" or "narrow angle" glaucoma -- can develop suddenly and is considered a medical emergency requiring immediate treatment. Symptoms include severe pain in the eyes, blurred vision, dilated pupils, and sometimes, nausea or vomiting. Fortunately, this acute glaucoma represents only 10 percent of all cases. The vast majority of glaucoma cases seem to be hereditary and usually appear in middle age. Having your eyes checked regularly (every two to three years after age 40; every one to two years after 60) will usually reveal glaucoma-related changes that can be treated before any damage to the eye occurs.
Ophthalmologists once believed that glaucoma was caused by liquid in the eye not draining properly (liquid normally flows in and out of the eye); they thought the pressure damaged the optic nerve (which carries images from the eyes to the brain). However, we now know that you can have glaucoma-related vision loss even when the intraocular pressure in your eyes is normal -- and you can have high intraocular pressure without developing glaucoma. Treatment may include eye drops and/or oral medication to reduce the pressure.
It sounds as if your husband is taking one of these medications. Unfortunately, if it isn't working, I don't know of any nutritional approaches that can help. You may want to investigate two alternative approaches: smoking marijuana -- which can lower intraocular pressure -- and mind/body approaches, such as hypnosis. Marijuana isn't a very practical approach, since you would have to smoke fairly often to keep intraocular pressure at a safe level. Researchers are now working on analogs of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, that might work better than smoking the real thing. Hypnotherapy can't hurt and might help slow or reverse the disease process.
As far as surgery is concerned, a number of laser procedures can help lower intraocular pressure by repairing various part of the eye's drainage system. Most of these operations are office or outpatient procedures. Sometimes, ophthalmologists recommend incisional surgery (also an outpatient procedure) to improve drainage in the eye. As with any operation, there is always a small risk of infection and bleeding. Risks specific to glaucoma surgery include undesirable changes in intraocular pressure, scarring, and loss of vision -- but these complications are considered unusual. However, sometimes surgery doesn't help, and even when it does, some patients still need to use drops or take drugs afterward. If your husband is considering surgery, he should be sure to ask about the risks and benefits of the recommended procedure -- as well as what the outlook would be if he decides against surgery. He should also ask whether medication will be necessary afterward or if more surgery might be needed in the future.