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Glaucoma Risk Factors and Treatments

Updated on May 23, 2012

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases marked by increased intraocular pressure that results in atrophy of the optic nerve and may result in blindness. It may not cause any symptoms at all but is detected by measuring the intraocular pressure. Sometimes having to change prescriptions in eyeglasses often, having vague visual disturbances, headaches, or seeing a halo around lights can be clues for the presence of glaucoma. Also, having difficulty adapting to darkness may be present in people with glaucoma.

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What Causes Glaucoma?

The cause of primary glaucoma is unknown, but the process leading to disease is typically this:  It is the failure of the eye to remove or drain clear watery fluid from the eye at a rate to keep up with its production in the anterior chamber. This then narrows the closure of the filtering angle, interferes with drainage through a canal (Shlemm), and will cause intraocular fluid to accumulate. This will then raise the intraocular pressure and presents the danger of glaucoma. Glaucoma could also occur even when this process does not happen, and the cause of this kind of glaucoma is unknown.

Who is Most at Risk for Glaucoma?

According to Krames Patient Education, people most likely to get glaucoma fall into one or more of these categories:

1) Being advanced in age.

2) Being of African descent.

3) Having a family history of glaucoma.

4) Having health issue of diabetes or high blood pressure previously.

5) Having history of eye injury or surgery on the eyes.

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What Treatments are Available?

In the case of glaucoma, a good defense could be the best offense. In other words, controlling disorders associated with glaucoma such as diabetes may be one of the best treatments. Plus, there are treatments that require no operation. These include miotics (eyedrops) and even marijuana has been used experimentally for symptoms of severe glaucoma.

Surgical options may include paracentesis of the cornea, iridectomy, cyclodialysis, and sclerotomy, and others. The risks, benefits, and alternatives of each option are best evaluated and decided along with your eye care specialists and may vary from one person to another.

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According to Linda B. White, MD, in a recent article for the Herb Companion, glaucoma is one of 4 eye disorders that can be treated with the following herbs:

1) Ginkgo: To improve blood flow to the retina and is also an antioxidant and protects nerve cells in the eye.

2) Cannabis: Has cannabinoids that reduce pressure in the eyes of glaucoma sufferers. In studies, people who smoked the marijuana showed pressure reduction for 3 to 4 hours. Of course, there are side effects that some may not desire, including altered mental status or behavior and lowered blood pressure. Plus, it is not even legal in very many places. But some think that making any eyedrop from the cannabinoids would be a better route. As noted above, cannabis (marijuana) has even been prescribed in traditional medicine for glaucoma.

3) Coleus: That contains forskolin has been shown to decrease the amount of fluid within the eyes and thus decreasing the pressure. So it too is thought to have a place in the treatment of glaucoma.

4) Green Tea: Touted to have antioxidants that take care of free radicals that cause the damage in many diseases, including those affecting the eyes like glaucoma. Also, the polyphenols of green tea are used to treat retinal cells that protects them from the harm of UV light.

This article has been provided for the purpose of information and in no way replaces advice from medical health/eye care providers.

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