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April 20, 2018  |  Login
 
Glaucoma
 
by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.

Glaucoma affects more than two million Americans and is the second leading cause of blindness in this country. This can be a very serious disease that must be given medical care as soon as possible, if permanent vision loss is to be avoided. In the healthy eye, fluid is produced and drained at equal rates. If the fluid cannot drain properly, it builds up and puts pressure on the optic nerve, the retina, and the lens. This pressure can partially damage or even completely destroy the retina and the optic nerve.

If the outflow channels are open and become blocked with debris, the disorder is called open-angle glaucoma. Chronic open-angle glaucoma is the most common form and usually occurs over the years. Fluid drains too slowly from the anterior chamber of the eye and pressure builds up. At first, increased pressure in the eyes produces no symptoms. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include narrowing peripheral vision, mild headaches, and vague visual disturbances, such as seeing halos around electric lights or having difficulty adapting to darkness. At some point, tunnel vision-where the visual field narrows and makes it hard to see anything on either side when looking forward-may develop.

If the channels are blocked by the iris, the disorder is called closed-angle glaucoma. Fluid pressure increases quickly and causes intense pain in one eye, along with headaches and vision problems, including blurring or a "halo effect" around lights. The eyeball feels hard to the touch, and the pain may be so severe that it causes nausea and even vomiting. The eyelid swells, and the eye becomes red and watery. These symptoms are warning signs that you must receive medical care immediately. ­ Permanent vision loss and even total blindness can settle in after just a few days. Fortunately, acute glaucoma is rather rare and accounts for only 10 percent of all glaucoma cases. Certain medications, long periods spent in darkness, and stress are all potential triggers for an attack.

Since the disease targets older people most frequently, anyone over sixty-five should make glaucoma tests part of their annual eye exam. African Americans, who have a much higher incidence of glaucoma than the rest of the population does, should start getting annual tests after the age of forty, as should anyone with diabetes. If at any age you experience a loss of peripheral vision, constant low-level headaches, eye pain, or blurred vision that is not corrected with one new lens prescription, see a doctor at once. If you test positive for glaucoma, you may not be able to recover the damage that's already been done, but there's a good chance that you can significantly slow the progress of the disease.

There does not seem to be one single cause of glaucoma. Most likely, a variety of factors come into play. A good strategy for prevention, as well as treatment in conjunction with a doctor's care, incorporates reducing the general number of toxins in the body, eating foods that support the eye, correcting nutritional deficiencies associated with glaucoma, enhancing digestion, avoiding medications that predispose one to glaucoma, and reducing stress.

 
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Next: What are the Symptoms of Glaucoma
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