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Every day, more than 100 people in the UK start to lose their sight,1 a worryingly high statistic - but the good news is more than 50 per cent of these cases could be prevented.
Glaucoma is the name for a group of eye conditions where the optic nerve, which connects the retina in your eye to your brain, becomes damaged.
This condition usually occurs when the fluid that fills the front part of your eye can't drain away properly, increasing pressure inside the eye. The eye needs pressure to keep the eyeball in shape, but if it gets too high, it squeezes the optic nerve, which carries visual information from the eye to the brain. This can lead to irreversible sight loss if it's not detected and treated.
Anyone can get glaucoma, but getting older increases your chances, with two per cent of people over the age of 40 diagnosed with the condition. Glaucoma is also hereditary, and you're more likely to get it if you have an African, Caribbean or Asian background. It can also be a complication of diabetes.2
Unfortunately, the damage caused by glaucoma can't be reversed, but treatment can stop your sight from getting worse. By detecting it early, glaucoma can be treated with eye drops, which can bring down the pressure within the eye and reduce the fluid build-up.
If glaucoma is left untreated, surgery may be the next option. The most common is a trabeculectomy procedure, which may be used as an alternative to laser treatment to improve the drainage of fluids from your eye.3
If you're at increased risk of developing glaucoma, there are some things that you can do to reduce it:
Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes and can lead to blindness if left untreated. It occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the small blood vessels in the back of the eye (retina). The lining of these delicate blood vessels may thicken or develop leaks7 and when they're damaged your eyes may be unable to work properly.
You're more at risk if you persistently have high blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol, are pregnant or from an Asian or Afro-Caribbean background.8
A laser treatment called photocoagulation, regular screening and good blood pressure and glucose control can successfully save central vision.9
If you're at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, there are steps you can take to significantly reduce this:
Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible, supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.
1Fight for sight, Facts about sight loss
2Diabetes.co.uk, Glaucoma and Diabetes
3International Glaucoma Association, Trabeculectomy
5Kang JH, Willett WC, Rosner BA, Buys E, Wiggs JL, Pasquale LR. (2016). Association of Dietary Nitrate Intake With Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma: A Prospective Analysis From the Nurses' Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study, JAMA Ophthalmology.
6Hecht I, Achiron A, Man V, Burgansky-Eliash Z. (2017). Modifiable factors in the management of glaucoma: a systematic review of current evidence, Graefe's archive for clinical and experimental ophthalmology
7Joslin Diabetes Center, Diabetic Retinopathy: Your Questions Answered
8NHS, Diabetic retinopathy
9Diabetes UK, Managing eye problems when you have diabetes
11Praidou A, Harris M, Niakas D, Labiris G. (2017). Physical activity and its correlation to diabetic retinopathy, Journal of diabetes and its complications
12Brazionis L, Rowley K, Itsiopoulos C, O'Dea K. (2009). Plasma carotenoids and diabetic retinopathy, The British journal of nutrition
13Nita M, Grzybowski A. (2017). Smoking and Eye Pathologies. A Systemic Review. Part II. Retina Diseases, Uveitis, Optic Neuropathies, Thyroid-Associated Orbitopathy, Current pharmaceutical design
14Wat N, Wong RL, Wong IY. (2016). Associations between diabetic retinopathy and systemic risk factors, Hong Kong medical journal
15British Heart Foundation, How to reduce your blood pressure: 6 top tips
16Macular Society, Diet and exercise
17Tellez-Vazquez J. (2016). Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation improves dry eye symptoms in patients with glaucoma: results of a prospective multicenter study, Clinical ophthalmology (Auckland, N.Z.)
18Li ZZ, Lu XZ, Ma CC, Chen L. (2010). Serum lycopene levels in patients with diabetic retinopathy, European journal of ophthalmology