Look out for the health of your eyes—steer clear of this
condition caused by pressure within the eyeball. According to research or other evidence, the
following self-care steps may help prevent vision loss:
- Give C a try for healthier eyes
- Reduce intraocular pressure by taking at least 2 grams a day of
- Go for the ginkgo
- To improve vision in cases of normal tension glaucoma, take 120 mg
a day of a standardized extract of the herb Ginkgo biloba
- See an expert
- Visit an optometrist or ophthalmologist for regular eye tests that
can detect the early signs of glaucoma
These recommendations are not comprehensive and are not intended to replace
the advice of your doctor or pharmacist. Continue reading the full glaucoma article for more
in-depth, fully-referenced information on medicines, vitamins, herbs, and dietary and
lifestyle changes that may be helpful.
The term glaucoma describes a group of eye conditions that are usually associated with
increased intraocular pressure (pressure within the eyeball).
In many cases, the cause of glaucoma is unknown. Conventional medications are frequently
effective in reducing intraocular pressure. Therefore, it is important for people with
glaucoma to be under the care of an ophthalmologist.
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What are the symptoms?
Because glaucoma may not cause any symptoms until it has reached an advanced and
irreversible stage, regular eye exams are recommended, especially after age 40. In the later
stages, symptoms include loss of peripheral (side) vision, blurred vision, blind spots, seeing
halos around lights, and poor night vision. If left untreated, glaucoma may cause
Several prescription medications are available to reduce pressure within the eye. Commonly
used agents include dipivefrin (Propine),
betaxolol (Betoptic), carteolol
(Ocupress), timolol (Timoptic), pilocarpine
(Isopto Carpine, Pilopine HS), brimonidine (Alphagan P), levobunolol (Betagan), and latanoprost (Xalatan).
Surgical procedures, such as laser trabeculoplasty and trabeculectomy, can increase fluid
drainage from the eye to relieve pressure.
Dietary changes that may be helpful
At least two older reports claimed that
allergy can be a triggering factor for glaucoma.1 2 Although an
association between allergy and glaucoma is not generally accepted in conventional medicine,
people with glaucoma may wish to consult a physician to diagnose and treat possible
Vitamins that may be helpful
Several studies have shown that supplementing with vitamin C can significantly reduce elevated
intraocular pressure in individuals with glaucoma.3 These studies used at least 2
grams per day of vitamin C; much larger amounts were sometimes given. Higher quantities of
vitamin C appeared to be more effective than smaller amounts.
Doctors often suggest that people with glaucoma take vitamin C to “bowel
tolerance.”4 The bowel-tolerance level is determined by progressively
increasing vitamin C intake until loose stools or abdominal pain occurs, and then reducing the
amount slightly, to a level that does not cause these symptoms. The bowel tolerance level
varies considerably from person to person, usually ranging from about 5 to 20 or more grams
per day. Vitamin C does not cure glaucoma and must be used continually to maintain a reduction
in intraocular pressure.
Many years ago, the flavonoid rutin was
reported to increase the effectiveness of conventional medication in people with
glaucoma.5 The amount used—20 mg three times per day—was quite
moderate. In that study, 17 of 26 eyes with glaucoma showed clear improvement. Modern research
on the effects of rutin or other flavonoids in people with glaucoma is lacking.
Supplementing with 0.5 mg of melatonin
lowered intraocular pressure of healthy people,6 but there have been no studies on
the effects of melatonin in people with glaucoma.
Magnesium can dilate blood vessels. One
study looked at whether magnesium might improve vision in people with glaucoma by enhancing
blood flow to the eyes. In that trial, participants were given 245 mg of magnesium per day.
Improvement in vision was noted after four weeks, but the change did not reach statistical
Alpha lipoic acid (150 mg per day for one
month) improves visual function in people with some types of glaucoma.8
Surveys have shown that Inuit people, who consume large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids,
have a much lower incidence of some types of glaucoma than do Caucasians. Although there have
been no studies on the use of omega-3 fatty acids to treat glaucoma, one study found that cod liver oil (a rich source of omega-3 fatty
acids) reduced intraocular pressure in animals.9
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Refer to the individual supplement for information about any side effects or interactions.
Herbs that may be helpful
In a double-blind study, supplementation with a standardized extract of Ginkgo biloba in the amount of 40 mg three times
a day for four weeks partially reversed visual field damage in people with one type of
glaucoma (normal tension glaucoma).10
Studies in healthy humans, including at least one double-blind trial, have repeatedly shown
that intraocular pressure is lowered by direct application of forskolin, a constituent of the
Ayurvedic herb Coleus forskohlii.11 12
Until ophthalmic preparations of coleus or forskolin are available, people with glaucoma
should consult with a skilled healthcare practitioner to obtain a sterile fluid extract for
use in the eyes. Direct application of the whole herb to the eyes has not been studied and is
Dan shen (Salvia miltiorrhiza), a traditional Chinese herb, used either alone or
combined with other Chinese herbs for 30 days was reported to improve vision in people with
glaucoma.13 However, the herb was administered by muscular injection, a preparation
that is not readily available in North America or Great Britain. It is not known whether oral
use of the herb would have the same effect.
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Refer to the individual herb for information about any side effects or interactions.
1. Berens C, et al. Allergy in glaucoma. Manifestations of allergy in
three glaucoma patients as determined by the pulse-diet method of Coca. Ann Allergy
2. Raymond LF. Allergy and chronic simple glaucoma. Ann Allergy
3. Ringsdorf WM Jr, Cheraskin E. Ascorbic acid and glaucoma: a review.
J Holistic Med 1981;3:167–72.
4. Boyd HH. Eye pressure lowering effect of vitamin C. J Orthomolec
5. Stocker FW. Clinical experiments with new ways of influencing the
intraocular tension. II. Use of rutin to enhance the tension-reducing effect of miotics by
reducing the permeability of the blood-aqueous barrier. Arch Ophthalmol
6. Samples JR, Krause G, Lewy AJ. Effect of melatonin on intraocular
pressure. Curr Eye Res 1988;7:649–53.
7. Gaspar AZ, Gasser P, Flammer J. The influence of magnesium on visual
field and peripheral vasospasm in glaucoma. Ophthalmologica 1995;209:11–3.
8. Filina AA, Davydova NG, Endrikhovskii SN, et al. Lipoic acid as a
means of metabolic therapy of open-angle glaucoma. Vestn Oftalmol
9. McGuire R. Fish oil cuts lower ocular pressure. Med Tribune
10. Quaranta L, Bettelli S, Uva MG, et al. Effect of Ginkgo biloba
extract on preexisting visual field damage in normal tension glaucoma. Ophthalmology
11. Caprioli J, Sears M. Forskolin lowers intraocular pressure in
rabbits, monkeys and man. Lancet 1983;i:958–60.
12. Badian M, Dabrowski J, Grigoleit HG, et al. Effect of forskolin
eyedrops on intraocular pressure in healthy males. Klin Monatsbl Augenheilkd
1984;185:522–6 [in German].
13. Zhen-zoung W, You-qin, Su-mo Y, Ming-ti X. Radix Salviae
miltiorrhizae in middle and late stage glaucoma. Chin Med J