Patients’ Guide to Living with Glaucoma


The ability to see the beautiful world around you is one of the greatest gifts that life has to offer. However, many unfortunate people lose this gift when affected by Glaucoma, an eye disease that gradually takes away the vision.

Glaucoma does not show any symptoms during the preliminary stages. It affects the optic nerves located at the back of your eye and gradually destroys it. The damage is caused due to an increase in the pressure inside the eyes as the flow and drainage of aqueous humour are blocked. In other cases, Glaucoma is also caused by the poor supply of blood to the optic nerve fibers in the eyes; which could be due to defect or problem in the structure of the nerve itself.

How Lifestyle Affects Glaucoma?
glucoma vision
Eye health and lifestyle choices share a deep relationship. Patients suffering from Glaucoma should know this connection. Certain changes in lifestyle can dramatically improve your ocular health. Apart from taking medications and undergoing treatment, these lifestyle changes can help you to combat this deadly disease often known as the silent thief of sight:

  • Exercise for lowering eye pressure
  • There are certain exercises that help in reducing the Intraocular Pressure or IOP (the pressure inside the eye). The eye pressure increases during the first 5 minutes of exercising, but after that it decreases. Aerobics are considered good for decreasing eye pressure, thus keeping your eyes healthy. Exercises such as brisk walking, bicycling, swimming, jogging and gym conditioning three times a week drops the IOP substantially. Regular exercise improves the blood flow to the retina and the optic nerve.

  • Obesity and Glaucoma
  • According to research, obesity is also closely linked to Glaucoma. A study conducted by Professor Michael Belkin and Dr Zohar Habot-Wilner, Goldschleger Eye Institute at the Sheba Medical Centre, found that excess weight creates pulmonary problems and as a result, the blood vessels in the eyes are affected which leads to loss of vision. They reviewed more than 20 studies involving thousands of patients all over the world and came to this conclusion.

  • Alcohol Consumption and Eye pressure
  • Alcohol consumption can lower eye pressure for a short period, but experts suggest that daily alcohol consumption can cause higher eye pressure. Therefore, it is important to let your ophthalmologist know whether you are consuming alcohol or not because it will affect your readings during check-ups.

  • Caffeine increases eye pressure
  • Drinking coffee increases eye pressure. Moderate amount of coffee is fine, but excessive caffeine intake should be avoided by Glaucoma patients. According to the data from the Blue Mountains Eye Study, patients with open-angle Glaucoma who regularly drank coffee had significantly higher mean IOP than those who didn’t drink coffee.


Impact of Diet on Glaucoma

Everything you eat affects your overall health. A study by Spanish Society of Ophthalmology in 2014 found that eating the right food can help reduce the risk of Glaucoma. It also helps in preventing the disease and maintains healthy eyesight for long run.

The Spanish study examined the diets of people as noted in two American Ophthalmological studies, and in one study from Rotterdam. As per this study, the food rich in Retinol (a type of vitamin A) such as cheese, milk, liver and butter helps to eliminate the risk of Glaucoma.
The researchers also found that higher consumption of green leafy vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, fruits and fruit juices help in reducing the risk of Glaucoma. Orange-coloured fruits such as apricots and peaches are also quite beneficial in preventing the disease.

The study also recommends foods rich in antioxidants such as green tea, dark chocolate and black tea for patients having Glaucoma. However, they also maintained that Glaucoma patients should also consume little or no caffeine, as that increase intraocular pressure and thus, worsen the disease.

Here are a few super foods that are beneficial for lowering the risk of Glaucoma and maintaining overall eye health:

  1. Spinach
  2. Spinach is excellent for the eye as it’s rich in lutein, carotenoid, a compound that is found in colourful fruits and vegetables. It protects cells from damage.

  3. Walnuts
  4. Among nuts, this is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids. In small amounts, these fatty acids can be converted to EPA or eicosapentaenoic acid. This is an important omega-3 fatty acid which is very useful for the eyes, apart from DHA. These are full of antioxidants and vitamin E that help in preventing inflammation and maintaining cardiovascular health. Walnuts also help in lowering C-reactive protein, an indicator of inflammation in the body. Consuming walnuts can cut your risk of cardiac problems to 50%.

  5. Salmon
  6. Cold-water fishes like salmon, mackerel, herring and albacore tuna are best for the back of the eyes. These fishes contain DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an important omega-3 fatty acid that concentrates in the retina and may prevent plaque.

  7. Berries
  8. Berries, especially blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, mulberries and even grapes are excellent foods for protecting cardiovascular health, which makes them equally beneficial for the health of the eyes too. Berries are great for lowering high blood pressure which increases the risk for Glaucoma and other eye diseases. Blueberries and blackberries also contain anthocyanins, containing dark purple pigments, which helps in fighting inflammation and improves blood flow. These pigments also help in preventing artery blockages and thus, maintain a supply of oxygen to the retina.

  9. Orange Bell Peppers
  10. Orange bell peppers are the best dietary source of zeaxanthin, a type of carotenoid that accumulates in the back of the eye. The higher the level of lutein and zeaxanthin, the lower the risk for eye diseases. Orange bell peppers also contain vitamin C. Other orange coloured foods such as goji berries, squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and carrots are also beneficial for eye health.

  11. Avocados
  12. Avocados are the best food for the eyes. This is one of the most nutrient-rich fruits. This fruit is rich in lutein which helps in prevention of eye diseases such as Glaucoma and macular degeneration. Avocados are also a great source of important eye nutrients such as Vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin B6 and vitamin E.


Living With Glaucoma

Do not let Glaucoma stop you from enjoying life. Even if you are diagnosed with Glaucoma, continue with what you were doing before the disease affected you.

  • What to do when your vision begins to change?
  • People with Glaucoma have low vision. In other words, you might have problems doing routine things even if you are using glasses. Glaucoma can cause loss of contrast sensitivity, which leads to problems with glare, and reduce visual acuity. Consult your doctor immediately if you experience these symptoms.

  • Cooperate with your doctor
  • If you have been newly diagnosed with Glaucoma, have your eye pressure checked frequently until it is under control. Even if your eye pressure is at a safe level, see your doctor several times a year for frequent checkups.


Other Health-related Issues Increasing the Risk of Glaucoma

Antihypertensive drugs at bedtime

There are a number of elderly patients who consume antihypertensive drugs. However, lowering blood pressure at night can lead to a hypotensive crisis. In other words, the blood pressure can dip too low to support ocular perfusion.

Sleep apnea

Moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea can increase the risk of glaucoma development and increase the chances of its progression. Patients address sleep apnea by using a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine at night. Although, CPAP is an effective non-surgical treatment for sleep apnea, visit yet a few studies have shown that CPAP therapy can increase IOP, especially at night. So it’s important to consult your doctor before going for CPAP therapy.


Migraines can increase the risk of Glaucoma progression in patients who are suffering from normal-tension glaucoma. So, it’s essential to consult both a neurosurgeon and an eye specialist for effectively treating this condition.


Accrding to research, it has been found that smoking marijuana lowers IOP in both normal people and people suffering from Glaucoma. However, it should be kept in mind that it lasts for only 3 or 4 hours. So, it is not advisable for Glaucoma patients to try Marijuana. Apart from that, since marijuana lowers the blood pressure, it can be harmful to the optic nerves (in glaucoma patients) by affecting the blood flow. The American Glaucoma Society, in a position statement on Glaucoma mentioned that, “Although marijuana can lower the intraocular pressure, its side effects and short duration of action, coupled with a lack of evidence that its use alters the course of Glaucoma, preclude recommending this drug in any form for the treatment of Glaucoma at present.”


How to Manage Glaucoma

Here is how you can manage Glaucoma and lead a healthy lifestyle:

  • Do not forget to take your medications regularly. Make them a part of your daily routine. If you keep on forgetting, use an alarm clock or a smartphone to remind you about your medicine timings.
  • Research and find out the possible side effects of the medicines. If your side effects are severe, then the medicines may not be right for you. In such cases, inform your doctor at the earliest.
  • If you are not getting any results after using the medicine, let your doctor know. The doctor can help you to find out the reason behind your medications not working for you (may be due to change in daily routine or dietary routine). The doctor is the right person to solve such problems by changing the type or timing of your medications.
  • Keep a thorough record of each medicine that you are taking. Note down the name and the dosage. Write down the number of times it should be taken every day. Carry it in your purse or wallet, or keep it in places where you can see it every day.
  • Before you leave the doctor’s office, always schedule your next check-up. Put it on your calendar so that you do not forget.
  • Keep your eyes clean and free of irritants. If you are a woman, be careful about eye cosmetics. Try using non-allergenic brands.
  • Never rub your eyes. Few Glaucoma medications might make them feel itchy or blurry but avoid rubbing them.
  • If you have had eye surgery, wear goggles when going out. Wear protective glasses when playing sports or doing some yard work.
  • Take care of your body. A good general health is as important as taking care of your eyes.
  • Eat healthy foods, exercise, quit smoking, avoid caffeine, and maintain a healthy weight. Be sure to check with your doctor before you start any strenuous exercise program.

Living with Glaucoma has an emotional and psychological aspect as well, Living with a chronic, vision-threatening health condition is not easy. You might feel worried, depressed, and anxious when you are first diagnosed with Glaucoma. Research and learn more about the disease, and you’ll find that there are a number of ways that can help you to manage Glaucoma. Even if you lose a part of your vision, you still can enjoy and continue to lead an active and healthy life.


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