Glaucoma Open Angle

Open Angle Glaucoma is a disease characterized by chronic progressive damage to the optic and retinal nerves.  In most cases of glaucoma, damage occurs very slowly over a period of years, but sometimes it can occur more rapidly.  As damage to the nerves occurs and progresses, vision loss will occur.  Most of the time initial damage to the nerve causes peripheral vision loss. Glaucoma causes no symptoms such as blurred vision, redness or pain in the early stages.  If not detected and treated early, the loss of peripheral vision can progress until it starts to affect the central vision.  Vision loss from glaucoma is permanent.  Therefore, it is critical to detect glaucoma early before significant damage to the nerve occurs.

 

Open Angle Glaucoma is a common disease which affects over 2% of the population. It occurs at all ages but is more common in adulthood.  It can affect people of any age, sex, and race.  Certain groups of people, including those of African or Hispanic descent, those with a family history of glaucoma, and possibly those with nearsightedness, diabetes, or high blood pressure, are at an increased risk.  The risk of glaucoma increases significantly in people of African descent over the age of 50, and in people of Caucasian descent over the age of 60 years.  About 40% of people with glaucoma have normal eye pressures and thus high eye pressure is no longer included in the definition of glaucoma.

 

Unfortunately, there is no cure for glaucoma, but effective treatments do exist.  The goal of therapy is to control the disease so that vision is STABILIZED. Control is a matter of reducing intraocular pressure down to a level tolerated by the nerve and maintaining adequate blood and nutrient flow to the retinal nerves.  Treatment options include eye drops, Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) and/or glaucoma surgery.

 

Preventive steps for glaucoma and/or managing diagnosed open glaucoma include:

  • One cup of spinach, kale or collard greens in diet 3 times a week or more often.  Cooked or raw are helpful.

  • Regular exercise: Walking and casual exercise increases the blood flow into your eye while a 20 minute cardiovascular workout has been show to lower your eye pressure by 2 mm Hg

  • Walking 7,000 or more steps per day can significantly reduce the risk of developing glaucoma

  • Drink adequate fluids slowly throughout the day and avoid gulping large volumes quickly.

  • Natural diuretics, such as drinking tea, may help keep eye pressures lower.

  • Include 1,000 mg Omega 3 in daily diet (avocado, salmon, walnuts, flax) or consider a low dose Omega 3 supplement

  • Minimizing or eliminating coffee is helpful to minimize eye pressure

  • Sleep with your head at about a 15 degree incline up /elevation.  A pillow works fine for most people.

 

Although glaucoma is a disease that stays with the person for life, through good control vision loss can be avoided.  Control is manifest in stable pressures, stable visual field and stable appearance of the optic nerve head. Good management consists of the vigilant and frequent monitoring of these three factors. This is why patients with glaucoma should be re-examined every 3 to 4 months for the rest of their lives. Glasses need to be updated in glaucoma patients just as in the normal population. With regular exams and good cooperation the outlook is bright for almost all patients with glaucoma.