Glaucoma affects over 3 million people in the United States and is the second leading cause of blindness. Some people may be identified as a “Glaucoma Suspect” prior to actually being diagnosed with the disease. This assessment will be made by your eye doctor based on a combination of risk factors. One key factor is family history. If someone in your family has been diagnosed with Glaucoma, your risk increases four to nine times.
What is Glaucoma
Glaucoma is a group of progressive diseases of the optic nerve usually associated with elevated intraocular pressure. The most common type is Open-Angle Glaucoma which generally begins with no symptoms but if left untreated will lead to vision loss. Vision loss typically begins with peripheral vision loss and escalating to complete blindness in some cases. Some people can be born with Glaucoma or it can occur due to trauma.
Types of Glaucoma
To understand the different types of Glaucoma, it is important to know how the optic nerve works. In a healthy optic nerve, fluid flows continuously in and out of the area between the iris and the cornea, nourishing nearby tissues.
• Open Angle: Occurs when fluid passes through too slowly causing pressure to build up, damaging the optic nerve. Open-Angle Glaucoma has no symptoms until peripheral vision loss occurs.
• Low and Normal Tension (LTG/NTG): Occurs when fluid passes through too slowly causing pressure to build up, damaging the optic nerve. Open-Angle Glaucoma has no symptoms until peripheral vision loss occurs.
• Angle-Closure: Occurs when there is optic nerve damage but normal eye pressure. Although the cause is not completely understood, it is believed that this type of Glaucoma is related to reduced blood flow to the optic nerve or the optic nerve is unusually fragile LTG/NTG has no symptoms until peripheral vision loss occurs. However, because of the association with poor blood flow, sufferers may experience migraine headaches, low blood pressure and cold hands and feet.
• Congenital Glaucoma: Some children are born with a defect that slows the drainage of fluid. Symptoms include cloudy eyes, light sensitivity and excessive tearing. Children with Congenital Glaucoma have an excellent prognosis if treated promptly.
• Pigmentary & Pseudoexfoliation Glaucoma:: These types of Glaucoma occur when extra material sheds off the eye and blocks drainage. Although characterized by a white flaky substance on the iris or lens, there are no noticeable visual symptoms. Therefore, these types of Glaucoma must be diagnosed by a doctor.
• Secondary Glaucomas: Other medical conditions can cause Glaucoma. Poorly controlled diabetes, high blood pressure, surgeries, cataracts and eye tumors are some of the more common known triggers.
Although anyone can develop Glaucoma, there are several factors that may increase your risk:
• Family history
• Anyone over age 60
• African Americans over age 40
• High blood pressure
• Abnormal optic nerve anatomy
• Thin cornea
Early diagnosis is very important. The sooner treatments begin, the better the chances are of delaying the progression and preserving your vision. There is currently no cure for Glaucoma and once damage is done there is no way to reverse it. Since vision loss is often the first symptom, Glaucoma suspects and those over the age of 45 should be getting regular eye exams.
Treatments of Glaucoma include: medications, laser and conventional surgeries, supplementation with Ginkgo Biloba, or a combination of any of these.
In 2003, a group of researchers recruited 27 NTG patients aged 58-80 for a 16-week clinical trial to study the effects of the anti-oxidant Ginkgo Biloba on visual field loss. Patients had NTG in each eye and reported progressive vision loss over time. The patients were randomly divided into two groups. One group received 40 mg of a typical ginkgo biloba extract three times daily for four weeks, followed by an 8 week period of no treatment, and then by placebo for another 4 weeks. The second group received the same treatment, but in the reverse order. Standard measurements to determine the extent of visual field loss were recorded in each phase of the trial. At the end of the trial, the group given Ginkgo Biloba showed significant improvement, while the placebo showed none. Additionally, when the Ginkgo was stopped, the visual field performance regressed, indicating that continued use is necessary to maintain visual benefits.
Ginkgo Biloba has shown to improve blood circulation to sensitive organs like the brain and optic nerve. This improved blood flow may help slow the progression of Glaucoma. It is believed that the best time to start a Ginkgo Biloba supplementation is at the “suspect” stage, or as soon as possible.
Doctor’s Advantage has created a product specifically for Glaucoma suspects and patients who have already been diagnosed with Glaucoma. Glaucoma ShieldTM is a daily supplement that supports healthy optic nerve function and includes Ginkgo Biloba, Taurine and other anti-oxidants that may increase ocular blood flow and may help lower elevated eye pressure.
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