How to Treat Glaucoma Naturally? Lower Eye Pressure With Herbs, Supplements and Acupuncture
Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible visual impairment and blindness worldwide, so natural ways to lower eye pressure have become more popular. The groups of people at the highest risk of developing this disease are people over 60 years old, African Americans, Hispanics over 60, Asians, family history of glaucoma, hypertension, people using steroids, obesity, nearsightedness, and people with eye injuries, especially those that bruise and penetrate the eyes. Regular eye exams can identify the disease early, allowing immediate treatment for slowing visual field loss. If left untreated, it can cause blindness. Even when it is treated, about 10% of patients will still develop permanent vision loss.
How to naturally lower eye pressure? There are some alternative and medication-free tips that you can incorporate into your lifestyle to reduce the glaucoma risk. The most common form of alternative treatment is the use of acupuncture, Chinese herbal therapy, and nutritional supplements. We will explain all of them and add some recommendations and lifestyle adjustments that can be beneficial in glaucoma outcomes.
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Natural Glaucoma Treatment
As far as a natural alternative treatment for glaucoma is concerned, traditional Chines medicine (TCM) can offer acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and nutritional supplements in treating glaucoma. The main principle behind TCM is based on balance, energy, and harmony. The Qi is a life force that runs through the body’s meridians. These are the energy pathways, and when they are blocked, it can cause illness. The ultimate goal of TCM is to balance the energy flow and make it flow freely.
According to TCM, the Liver, Kidneys, and Gall Bladder greatly influence the energetic nutrition of the eyes and their preservation.
Lowering Eye Pressure Naturally with Acupuncture
Acupuncture is the practice of inserting thin, small needles into specific points in the body. These points are strategically positioned throughout the body along the meridians and are called acupuncture points. The needles are then activated through specific yet gentle movements of the practitioner’s hands or with electrical stimulation. It stimulates natural healing mechanisms and promotes emotional and physical well-being. Some of the most commonly used acupuncture points include:
- UB-2 or Zan Zhu point is located at the tip of the eyebrow, along the inner eye area. It is mainly used for relieving sinus congestion and itchy, watery, and red eyes caused by allergies, but it also treats glaucoma.
- SJ-23 or Si Zhu Kong point can be found at the tail-end of the eyebrows, away from the eyes. Besides treating glaucoma, it also treats migraines and headaches, sometimes associated with glaucoma.
- ST-1 or Cheng Qi point is located directly under the center of the eye, at the lower eyelid. It relieves eye pain.
- BG-14 or Yang Bai point can be found above the left eye, on the left side of the forehead. Not only it relieves the headache but also other glaucoma symptoms.
- Ex-HN4 or Yu Yao point is located at the midpoint of the eyebrow, right above the pupils. It soothes redness, swelling, and eye pain.
Those points closer to the eyes are anatomically sensitive, so needling them with extreme caution can decrease the risk of a patient’s traumatic optic neuropathy and globe perforation.
Glaucoma Herbal Treatment
According to TCM, chronic stagnation is the main cause of glaucoma. Fire and stagnation are closely connected, as things that accumulate tend to heat up. Stagnation can lead to fire syndrome, which may lead to increased IOP. Common stagnation syndromes include Liver Qi stagnation, blood stasis, and fluid accumulation. Treating glaucoma causes involves different herbs that drain the fluid from the eyes as well as herbs to decrease internal fire. In addition, reducing the underlying stagnation is one of the goals of the glaucoma natural cure.
Herbs for Glaucoma
The usage of natural ways to decrease eye pressure is becoming more popular. The most commonly used herbal medicines are:
- Ginkgo Biloba – Contains more than 60 bioactive compounds (mostly terpenoids and flavonoids), 30 of which are not found anywhere else in nature. Ginkgo has vasoregulatory, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory benefits and is considered a neuroprotective agent.
- Bilberry – Its main compound is anthocyanin, a flavonoid that has an excellent neuroprotective function by stabilizing optic nerve structure and enhancing the resistance of retinal ganglion cells to ischemic or mechanical alteration.
- Blackcurrant – Similar to bilberry, blackcurrant is high in antioxidants (anthocyanins), vitamin C, and omega-6 fatty acids called gamma linoleic acid. The antioxidant improves blood flow in the eyes and may slow the progression of glaucoma. However, be cautious if you take blood thinners as they can slow blood clotting.
- Coleus – Coleus extract contains forskolin, a substance that may slightly decrease eye pressure in patients with glaucoma. Some studies show reduced eye pressure by 10% after 4 weeks. Higher doses even corresponded to greater decreases in eye pressure.
- Curcumin – As a popular Indian spice, turmeric’s main ingredient is curcumin. It has strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antitumor properties. It has shown elevated levels of protective markers after retinal ischemia induced by high IOP.
- Green tea – Green tea contains antioxidants catechin and epigallocatechingallate that can help with lowering the IOP. You only need to pay attention not to reach very high doses, as they can cause hepatotoxicity.
Supplements for Glaucoma
Vitamins and minerals play an important role in supporting overall health and boosting immunity. In addition, some of them can prevent further glaucoma damage by complementing the existing glaucoma treatment.
- Vitamin A (Retinol) is an important compound for the normal functioning of the retina. It also acts as an antioxidant and has a protective effect in the disease course of glaucoma.
- Vitamin B3 (Nicotinamide) has been shown to protect the optic nerve against glaucoma damage when taken over the six-week period.
- Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid) can effectively reduce IOP via an osmotic effect. However, it must be used in very high doses (above 2,000mg/day) and must be given intravenously. Also, its antioxidant effects have a protective mechanism on the retina and retinal damage in glaucoma.
- Vitamin B12 (Methylcobalamin) is found in fish, meat, eggs, and milk. An oral dose of 1,500 micrograms taken daily for four years could decrease the visual field worsening in low pressure glaucoma.
- Vitamin E (Alpha-tocopherol) is a vitamin with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It can improve blood flow to the eye and reduce visual field deterioration if taken for at least 6 to 12 months.
- Omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA are found in oily fish. They are responsible for the reduction of blood oxidant and eye pressure levels.
- Quit smoking – Recent studies have shown that there is a link between heavy smoking and glaucoma and OIP fluctuations—free radicals from smoking damage ocular tissues and increase inflammation in the body.
- Right sleeping position – Many patients show a peak elevated OIP at night due to the elevated episcleral venous pressure. Patients should avoid sleeping only on one side and try sleeping with their heads inclined at 20 degrees in a supine position.
- Exercise regularly – Moderate exercise may help lower the blood pressure, consequently lowering the OIP by an average of 20% when patients exercise regularly for three months. The effects may last for months, but only some types of exercises may be beneficial.
- Maintain a healthy weight – Some studies suggest that women with low body mass index and people with high body mass index are at an increased risk of glaucoma. So, maintaining a healthy weight and nutritional status should be the standard of care for glaucoma patients.
- Wear eye protection – Serious eye injury and harmful UV rays will not benefit your eyes. Wear eye protection when outside in hot weather, when playing sports, or using power tools.
- Get regular eye examinations – Glaucoma does not have notable symptoms until the later stages, so regular check-ups are recommended, especially because glaucoma tends to run in families. That way, you can detect glaucoma in its early stages before significant damage occurs.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a serious eye disease that damages the optic nerve, which is related to the high pressure in the eye. Aqueous humor is a clear fluid that is continually produced in a healthy eye. The amount of produced fluid equals the amount that flows out of the eye. However, if the liquid does not flow out of the eye efficiently, eye pressure builds up and causes ocular hypertension. Intraocular pressure (IOP) is vital factor in glaucoma progression, as high IOP damages the optic nerve.
It can happen at any age but is more common in older adults – those older than 60. Many glaucoma forms have no warning signs, so you may not notice a change in vision until the condition is in later stages. There are several different glaucoma types:
- Open-angle glaucoma is the most common glaucoma type. The cause is not known, but it leads to a small and slow increase in pressure. The risk is higher if you have a family history of open-angle glaucoma.
- Acute angle-closure glaucoma happens when there is a blockage of fluid, and it cannot flow out of the eye. This type causes a quick and severe eye pressure rise.
- Normal-tension glaucoma is a type of open-angle glaucoma that happens in patients with normal eye pressure.
- Secondary glaucomas happen when high eye pressure is caused by another medical condition, eye injury, or medications. This group includes neovascular glaucoma, pigmentary glaucoma, exfoliation glaucoma, and uveitic glaucoma.
- Glaucoma in children, also known as congenital glaucoma, happens to 1 in every 10,000 babies born in the U.S. They are born with a problem in the eyes that keeps fluid from draining normally. The child with congenital glaucoma has cloudy eyes, make extra tears, are sensitive to light, and may have eyes that are bigger than normal.
Causes of Glaucoma
The eyes normally produce a fluid called aqueous humor, filling the front part of the eye. Then, it leaves the eye through drainage holes in the cornea and iris. When these channels become partially obstructed or blocked, the eye’s intraocular pressure (IOP) increases. With the increase of the IOP, the optic nerve may suffer damage. As the optic nerve damage progresses, the patient may begin losing sight in the eye. The exact cause of the increased IOP is not always known, but some of the following factors may play a role:
- Blocked or restricted drainage in your eye
- Medications such as corticosteroids
- High or elevated blood pressure
- Reduced or poor blood flow to the optic nerve
- Dilating eye drops.
People with glaucoma have optic nerve damage due to the fluid buildup in the eye. Although the disease may initially be worse in one eye, most people develop glaucoma in both eyes. People with glaucoma in one eye have a 40% to 80% chance of developing the same glaucoma type in the other eye within five to ten years.
Open-angle glaucoma symptoms tend to progress gradually and subtly, making them easy to miss. However, the closed-angle glaucoma symptoms are sudden, so the patient may experience:
- Pressure in the eye
- Eye pain
- Blurred vision
- Rainbow-colored halos around lights
- Low vision
- Nausea and vomiting
- Red eyes.
Glaucoma damage is irreversible, so regular eye check-ups and early detection are crucial.
Common Treatment of Glaucoma
The current treatment standards revolve around lowering the IOP and stopping the additional eyesight loss. The first line of defense is topical pharmacological therapies – beta blockers, alpha-agonists, topical anhydrase inhibitors, and parasympathomimetic agents. Your doctor may prescribe medications in the form of eye drops or pills. The drops are more common and are used to lower eye pressure. Some do that by helping the fluid flow better through the drainage angle, while others reduce the amount of aqueous fluid the eye makes.
Laser surgery is also used to treat glaucoma and help drain aqueous fluid from the eye. Trabeculoplasty is used for people who have open-angle glaucoma and makes the drainage angle work better. Iridotomy is for people with angle-closure glaucoma – it makes a tiny hole in the iris to help fluid flow to the drainage angle.
Operating room surgery is another option for glaucoma patients. Its main principle is to create a new drainage channel for the aqueous humor to leave the eye. Trabeculectomy is when a surgeon creates a tiny flap in the sclera. It also involves the creation of a bubble in the conjunctiva (in the form of the pocket) that is called a filtration bleb. It cannot be seen, as it is hidden under the upper eyelid. The fluid will be able to drain out of the eye through the flap and into the bleb. In that pocket, the tissue around the eye absorbs the fluid, lowering eye pressure.
The surgeon may implant a small drainage tube in the eye to send the fluid into a collection reservoir (a collection area) that is located beneath the conjunctiva. The excess liquid is then absorbed by the surrounding blood vessels.