Glaucoma refers to a group of progressive diseases in which cells and fibers of the optic nerve are damaged, affecting the transmission of signals from the eye to the brain.
Because the condition progresses slowly, many people don’t notice that their vision is changing, especially early on.
There is no cure for glaucoma, however symptoms can be treated to preserve sight and quality of life through medical treatments such as oral medication, eye drops, or surgical procedures.
Still, many patients ask us: “How can I prevent glaucoma in the first place?”
While some individuals may be unable to prevent glaucoma, there are steps you can take at home to prevent or delay this disease, including:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Avoid smoking
- Practice good dental hygiene
- Get regular screening for glaucoma, especially if there’s a history of the condition in your family
If you are at heightened risk for developing glaucoma (family history or over the age of 60, just to name a couple of the most common risk factors), there are things you can do at home to slow the progression or development of glaucoma.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Good nutrition plays an important role in eye health. Recent research has indicated that there may even be certain vitamins and nutrients that can help reduce intraocular pressure (IOP), the main cause of symptoms and blindness in glaucoma patients.
- Vitamin A – Examples include: carrots, cantaloupe, and squash
- Vitamin C – Examples include: oranges, strawberries, peppers, pineapple, and raspberries
- Antioxidants – Examples include: cranberries, flax seeds, pomegranates, and acai berries
- Carotenoids – Examples include: kale, corn, spinach, egg, broccoli, and green beans (Learn more about how carotenoids can keep your eyes healthy here)
Get Regular Exercise
There is no substitute for the benefits of regular exercise. Even low to moderate levels of exercise can improve our blood flow and therefore health of our body. In fact, vigorous exercise may actually elevate your intraocular pressure (IOP), so it’s recommended people with a higher risk of glaucoma maintain a consistent, easy-to-moderate exercise routine that keep blood flowing, muscles strong, and BMI/body weight at a healthy level.
Helpful low-impact, easy-to-moderate exercises may include:
- Daily walks
- Yoga (though be careful not to focus heavily on inverted poses for long periods, like downward dog or headstands, as they may increase IOP)
(Yes, even dancing!) The bottom line: move your body and get the blood moving, even if only for 30 minutes a day.
Remember: The best thing you can do to prevent the progression ofglaucoma and associated vision loss is to take good care of your whole body with healthy diet and exercise. (And get your annual, comprehensive exam to detect any problems early on for optimal treatment!)