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. This results in loss of peripheral vision. If left untreated, it leads to tunnel vision and eventual blindness. The most common type of glaucoma is due to an increase in the pressure inside the eye (primary open angle glaucoma). This is usually due to either blockage of the circulation of fluid inside the eye, or a problem with its drainage.
Glaucoma usually has no symptoms at all, and if we do notice it is often too late. There is often no pain experienced, and central vision is unaffected until the late stages of the disease. This is why this disease is often called the “invisible disease”. Sadly, people with glaucoma can remain unaware of the problem until it is too late – a large portion of their vision has already been destroyed and this damage is irreversible. For this reason, it is crucial to have regular eye health checks to ensure early detection of the disease.
New technology such as Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) can detect optic nerve damage far earlier than previous methods. If you are in a high risk group, regular OCT will ensure detection of the disease before there has been any loss of peripheral vision. For most people, it is recommended to have an eye check for glaucoma by the age of 40 with ongoing two yearly regular eye health checks.
Anyone can get this disease, however there are people with increased risk of developing this disease, such as those with;
- Family history of glaucoma
- Migraine sufferers
- High short-sightedness (myopia)
- High long-sightedness (hyperopia)
- Some eye injuries
- High blood pressure
- Use of cortisone drugs (steroids)
- African & Asian descent.
Treatment is aimed at reducing the pressure inside the eye. This can include regular eye drops, laser and even surgery. Treatment cannot recover what has been lost, but it can arrest, or at least slow down the damage process. That is why it is vital to detect the problem as early as possible, so that treatment can commence before too much vision is lost. For further information visit Glaucoma Australia at www.glaucoma.org.au
Lower your risk
Live a healthy lifestyle – that includes regular exercise and nutrition filled diet. There is no scientific evidence suggesting that certain vitamins and minerals prevent glaucoma or delay its progress. However, carotenoids (especially lutein and zeaxanthin), antioxidants (vitamins C and E), vitamins A and D, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids may all contribute to better vision.
Eat the alphabet:
- Vitamin A – found in carrots, sweet potato, mangoes, milk and egg yolks.
- Carotenoids – found in dark green, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, including spinach, broccoli, green beans, papaya, oranges, mango, sweet potato, corn, peaches and apricots.
- Vitamin C – found in citrus fruits, tomatoes, strawberries, leafy greens, sweet and white potato, broccoli and capsicum.
- Vitamin D – found in cod liver oil, ‘oily’ fish, fortified milk, cereal and egg yolks.
- Omega-3 fatty acids – found in salmon, sardines, walnuts and flaxseed oil.
- Zinc – found in oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, wholegrains and dairy products.