Is There Really a “Natural Cure” for Glaucoma?
Though the internet is full of information about natural remedies for glaucoma, it’s best to pursue a medical course of treatment.
Glaucoma is a serious medical condition that, when left untreated, can result in major complications, including blindness. While the condition can be managed with a doctor’s care, there is currently no cure — so it’s no surprise that many patients seek alternative or “natural” treatments that they hope will help their condition.
Many alternative remedies for glaucoma claim to reduce intraocular eye pressure (IOP), which is believed to be one of the primary causes of the condition. However, these alternative remedies are based on either folklore or excessive faith in limited studies. You should not consider any of the following “cures” a replacement for consulting with an eye doctor:
Vitamin C is found in the aqueous humor in the eye, and as Vitamin C levels drop in older patients, they may become more susceptible to cataracts. However, there are limited studies as to whether vitamin C relates specifically to glaucoma. While additional studies could someday show results, attempting to self-medicate with Vitamin C is currently not advised. Any IOP-lowering impact is minimal and temporary and requires large volumes of the vitamin, which can contribute to diarrhea and kidney stones.
Punarnava, or Boerhavia diffusa, is an herbal remedy native to India and Brazil. As a regional folk medicine, it’s used to treat many conditions, including abscesses, arthritis, pregnancy, and bronchitis. Punarnava is also used to treat eye conditions in those cultures, and it’s sometimes cited by natural remedy proponents as a way to treat glaucoma. However, no studies on punarnava and eye function yet exist, and applying an unknown substance to the eye is never advisable.
Bilberry is often cited as an alternative remedy for glaucoma and advertised as a powerful antioxidant. It was supposedly used for improved night vision during WWII, but this has not been replicated in any scientific studies. One small study on bilberry extract, funded by the company that manufactures the tested medication, showed some improvement in IOP over several months. However, these findings are far from sufficient and have not been reproduced to confirm results. Overall, bilberry supplements are not likely to make a difference in IOP and should never be considered a replacement for prescription drugs.
An anti-inflammatory diet with plenty of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables is good for the entire body. Because glaucoma is a complex disease with multiple causes, improving your overall health could conceivably help prevent glaucoma in the first place. One self-reporting study among African-American women, a high-risk group for glaucoma, did suggest that a healthier diet was associated with decreased chances of getting the disease.
Further randomized trials would be needed to confirm these results, as the healthier diets in this study could also have been related to other healthy choices. At the end of the day, if you already have glaucoma, it is not possible to eat your way to better sight — a doctor’s care is still necessary to treat the disease.
Your Treatment Plan
If you choose to use any of the remedies above, it’s important that you do so only under your doctor’s supervision and concurrently with proven medical treatment. Your eyesight is far too important to leave to guesswork and unconfirmed herbal remedies.
Since glaucoma often goes undiagnosed in the early stages, it is important to have a yearly eye exam. Early detection is by far your best bet to slow the progression of this disease. And if you already have a glaucoma diagnosis, don’t delay in talking to the experts at the Kleiman Evangelista Eye Centers of Texas. We can test your eyes, talk you through your options, and set you up with a treatment plan that best suits your needs.
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