About 4 million Americans suffer from glaucoma. But only
half know that they have the disease. Among African Americans, it
is the leading cause of blindness. Because glaucoma is caused by
disorders of the optic nerve, the diet plays an important role in
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can cause permanent damage to the optic nerve, and consequently result in vision loss or even blindness. It is caused by increased fluid pressure in the eyes.
In the United States, 4 million people suffer from glaucoma; 75% have “open-angle glaucoma,” which is the most common form of the disease.
People with higher risk include African Americans in their 40’s, adults over 60 years of age (especially Mexican Americans) and people with family history of glaucoma. If detected early, the disease can be stopped, according to the National Eye Institute.
Eyes Wide Open
The optic nerve is formed by over a million nerve fibers, and to connect normally with the brain, it needs to be healthy. Although it hasn’t been scientifically proved that diet can prevent the risk of glaucoma, there are certain practices that can help strengthen the optic nerve and, therefore, aid its right function. Among the foods that contain antioxidants, the Glaucoma Research Foundation in San Francisco recommends:
• Carrots: High in beta-carotene, a strong antioxidant that is beneficial for optical health.
• Spinach: Contains the two types of carotenoids present in the eyes: lutein and zeaxanthin. Some ophthalmologists even recommend these nutrients as supplements to prevent cataracts and glaucoma.
• Citrus fruits, red fruits, tomatoes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and melon: Good sources of vitamin C.
• Vegetable oils (especially from wheat germ), cereals, leafy vegetables, egg yolk, whole milk, butter, nuts, fish, avocado: Rich in vitamin E.
• Liver, carrots, sweet potatoes, turnips, grapefruit, apricots, papaya, red peppers, and cheddar cheese: Contain vitamin A.
• Lean meats, eggs, soy, peanuts, wheat bran, oysters: Sources of zinc.
• Cauliflower, spinach, fresh parsley, lettuce, green peas, green pepper, olives, and cucumber: Have lutein and zeaxanthin.
Despite what most think, glaucoma doesn’t show any symptoms on its early onset. Vision remains normal and there is no pain. As the disease progresses, the person begins to experience difficulty seeing objects at his/her sides. Therefore, it is very important to have a complete visual test with an ophthalmologist, especially for high risk populations: people with diabetes and those that present high intraocular pressure. The rest of the population should be checked every two to four years before age 40; one to three times per year, from 40 to 54 years of age; every one to two years between ages 55 and 64, and every six to twelve months after becoming 65.
Source: National Eye Institute; Glaucoma Research Foundation.
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