Prepared by Dr David Wechsler, clinical lecturer at the School of Advanced Medicine, Macquarie University, Consultant Ophthalmologist Macquarie University Eye Clinic and in private practice Sydney, NSW.
Q: I have read about dietary changes and exercise that can lower eye pressure naturally without taking medications. Why take eye drops that are artificial chemicals?
A: Generally any lowering of intraocular pressure achieved via dietary modification or exercise would be fairly minor. If patients have significantly elevated eye pressure then medical therapy (eye drops), or in some cases surgery, is the only proven way to treat this effectively. It is worth discussing with your treating specialist about any alternative approaches or interventions you are considering, to see how this might tie in with your glaucoma treatment. Some milder cases of glaucoma can be monitored without treatment for a period of time. It is important to have regular ongoing follow-up to monitor optic nerve changes and any visual field loss – irrespective of how it is being treated.
Q: I have read that glaucoma is the result of a hormone imbalance. Can it be cured by healthy eating and antioxidants?
A: While the exact cause of glaucoma remains unknown there is a lot of research examining the processes by which the optic nerve is affected in this group of conditions. There is no evidence that a hormone imbalance causes glaucoma, and the role of intraocular pressure level as the main modifiable risk factor in most forms of glaucoma is well established. Equally well established is the role of lowering intraocular pressure to treat glaucoma - of all forms and at all stages of the disease. Healthy eating, good nutrition and a balanced lifestyle may well have a role to play alongside mainstream treatments but do not replace them.
Q: Can coconut water alleviate glaucoma?
A: There is no scientific evidence that coconut water alleviates glaucoma.
Glaucoma is a chronic and incurable disease and there is no simple cure. However there are a number of proven, effective medical treatments that can slow the process down, help control it and there is long-term validated data available on this, which forms the basis for what can be offered to patients with this condition.
Coconut water should not be used as an alternative to conventional treatments. When treating glaucoma we aim to lower the pressure over the 24hr cycle, so a treatment that only lasts a few hours would be largely ineffective. It is important for patients to be monitored under the supervision of a medically trained eye specialist to minimise the chance of blindness. It is worth discussing with your treating doctor all medications you are taking, including natural remedies and supplements, as this could have an impact on the condition and its treatment.
Q: I am always looking for a “natural” way to control my eye pressure. Is there one?
A: Supplementary medicines are not as effective as conventional glaucoma treatment and should not be used as an alternative. Beware of miracle cures or a ‘quick fix’ peddled over the Internet.
Q: I have heard that diet and vitamins could help my glaucoma. Is that correct?
A: Discuss any dietary supplements with your specialist - there is no reason healthy dietary supplements and lifestyle changes can’t be adopted alongside conventional glaucoma treatments.
Q: Are the current glaucoma treatments working?
A: Glaucoma is a complex, incompletely understood and ultimately incurable condition but there are many beneficial treatments available to help patients retain their sight and quality of life
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