IOP (intraocular pressure) or simply ‘eye pressure’ is considered to be the only modifiable factor to prevent and control glaucoma. Recent studies have highlighted the role of other factors which indirectly affect the causation and progression of glaucoma disease.
Here are some factors which will help you prevent and manage glaucoma. Remember, they are not very effective in isolation. You will have to follow multiple or all of the advice given below to have a significant effect.
Being over-weight and obese is associated with metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance, diabetes and high blood pressure. These conditions affect the cardiovascular system which in turn cause and worsen glaucoma.
Exercise daily for at least 30 minutes
Studies have found clear benefit of exercise in cases of glaucoma. Non-exercise movement (NEM) and exercise have IOP (intraocular pressure) lowering effect. Try to exercise like walking, jogging or swimming for at least half an hour 3-5 times every week.
Smoking promotes atherosclerosis (narrowing and hardening of blood vessels). It also reduces the ability of blood to carry oxygen because of increased carbon monoxide levels in the blood. Both of these factors are responsible for decreased perfusion of the optic nerve leading to death of nerve fibers. This is the basic mechanism in the causation of glaucoma. The same effect can be produced by high eye pressure (intraocular pressure or IOP) also.
Prevent high blood pressure and diabetes
If you have any or both of them, manage them well as advised by your doctor. Both high blood pressure (hypertension) and low blood pressure (hypotension) can cause glaucomatous damage to the optic nerve. Diabetes is a risk factor for atherosclerosis and many studies have found correlation between diabetes and primary open angle glaucoma.
Both high blood pressure and diabetes are chronic medical conditions and require long-term treatment.
Follow a healthy diet
There is no clear correlation between any vitamin deficiency and glaucoma. Therefore there is no direct effect of taking vitamin supplements on its course. However, vitamin A, C and E which are potent antioxidants, reduce oxidative stress and indirectly have beneficial effects on glaucoma.
Try to consume more of fruit and vegetables, especially the ones with dark green, orange and yellow color.
Reduce consumption of simple sugars like soda, starch, sweets, bread etc. Eat more of complex carbohydrates which are found in natural unprocessed food items – mostly vegetables and fruits which are less sweet.
Those who have high blood pressure, should restrict their salt intake.
The dietary changes should not be temporary and must be used for the rest of your life.
Stress and type A personality are associated with high intraocular pressure. The correlation is not very strong but the effect of stress on general health can indirectly influence the development and progression of glaucoma.
Stress should be managed by being more organized, avoiding negative emotions, relaxation exercise, meditation, spending time with family and friends or any activity which calms and soothes your mind.
Sleep for 7-8 hours every night
A study has found that that the incidence of glaucoma is more in individuals who sleep less than 6 hours and more than 9 hours. It is therefore important to sleep for about 7-8 hours every night if you want to prevent glaucoma or want to manage your glaucoma well.
Wear protective glasses
Trauma is an uncommon cause of glaucoma. If your job/work involves possibility of an eye injury, you must use protective glasses. Since traumatic glaucoma is difficult to manage, it’s better to prevent it in the first place.
Have regular eye check-up
If you already have glaucoma, you must visit your ophthalmologist regularly. The frequency of your visits depends on the severity and stage of glaucomatous damage. With regular review, progression of glaucoma and resultant blindness can be prevented with judicious use of available options of medical, laser and surgical treatments.
Use the prescribed medication regularly
Avoid skipping the prescribed doses of your eye drop. Since the glaucoma treatment is used on long-term basis, you should buy the next month’s eye drops before the current ones exhaust.
Use reminders or alarms on your phone and set up visual cues to remind you to take your treatment. For instance, for the eye drop which you use once a day, keep the medication bottle near the bedside lamp which you switch off before you go to sleep.
Also, don’t forget to take your medication along with you when you travel.
Understanding the fact that irregular use of your medication will continue to cause glaucomatous damage is the first step to be regular with your treatment.