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Author: Robert Abel, Jr., M. D.

Thief of Sight: Glaucoma

If you are at risk for developing glaucoma, take that risk seriously. Glaucoma is the second-most important cause of blindness in the United States (after diabetic retinopathy), and the single most important cause of blindness among African Americans. If glaucoma is detected early and treated properly, blindness can be prevented. There is no longer any reason for people to go blind from glaucoma!

Alternative Therapies and Prevention

Total body wellness is the first goal of prevention. It’s known that glaucoma patients have scored very low in a limited number of quality-of-life surveys, which means that either the characteristics of the disease or its treatment is making this group of people enjoy life less than other groups surveyed. Therefore, it’s crucial to modify lifestyle, especially by controlling stress. Anxiety and stress increase production of cortisone and other natural chemicals that are toxic to the eye and brain.

I advise all my patients over the age of 40 –and those of any age with special risk factors –to formulate a glaucoma prevention strategy. Periodic eye exams are a necessary part of that prevention strategy to diagnose glaucoma at its earliest stage, when vision loss can be stopped. Research is revealing specific genes linked to the development of glaucoma, so it’s important to know your family history of eye disease.

Controlling risk factors that contribute to the development of glaucoma is also crucial to your prevention strategy. Conditions like high blood pressure (hypertension), obesity, thyroid disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (enphysema) must be kept in check.

In our search to harmonize the eye and the body and provide greater health, we must examine options that are not only less invasive than conventional medical therapies but that will nourish the body and spirit as well. The health management concept originated by Dean Ornish, M.D. (author of Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease and Love and Survival), which includes food, exercise, and meditation, is a wise combination to consider as you make changes in your life (although Dr. Ornish’s program, directed at heart disease, is stricter than what I propose here).

In addition to making lifestyle modifications you must make sure you are consuming adequate amounts of protective nutrients to build up your antioxidant bank account. While certain amounts of the essential nutrients can be obtained from your diet, you will probably want to supplement your intake of crucial vitamins, minerals, and other substances if you are at risk for developing glaucoma.

Dr. Abel’s Tip

An eye examination may be the key to diagnosing a serious eye disease, saving your vision, or even discovering a life-threatening condition. Make sure you get a complete eye exam every two years after the age of 40 unless you develop a glaucoma risk factor–in which case you should be examined every year.