Glaucoma can result from the build-up of pressure in the aqueous humor, the liquid that fills the area between the cornea and the lens. Pressure build-up sometimes is not the whole story, as optic nerve damage can continue after pressure is returned to normal. It is thus critical to have an ophthalmologist check for optic nerve damage and not just abnormal intraocular pressures.
Glaucoma usually develops after age 40, although congenital glaucoma and physical injury to the eye can account for earlier age of onset. Figures show that one out of every 25 Americans suffers from glaucoma, and over 62,000 are legally blind due to glaucoma.
Age-related losses of antioxidants increase physical stress on the eye, and oxidative damage are underlying causes. For example, diminished antioxidant activity in lacrimal (tear) fluid and blood plasma seems to coincide with progression of glaucoma. It's also proposed that the rate of nerve damage increases as antioxidant capacity and protease activity declines with age.
In open-angle glaucoma, the common form of the disease, drainage of the aqueous fluid is sluggish. The backup thus causes undue pressure in the eye. The pressure pinches the blood vessels that feed the optic nerve, causing the nerve to die over time, leading to decreased peripheral vision, tunnel vision and finally blindness. A less frequently encountered form of glaucoma is called narrow-angle or congestive glaucoma, whereby the flow of the aqueous liquid is blocked causing pressure to build up.
Evidence is slowly mounting to support the potential effectiveness of antioxidants against glaucoma. A Russian study of 64 patients with primary open-angle glaucoma found that a combined regimen of hyperbaric oxygen and antioxidants over a five-year period stabilized visual function in 80% of patients.45
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Adapted with permission from an article in Life Extension, Feb 2003