Your eyeball is filled with fluid (aqueous humor) under a certain amount of pressure, which helps the eye maintain its shape. The pressure can get too high if the fluid builds up and can not flow out of the eye. This condition is called glaucoma. If not corrected, glaucoma can lead to pain, loss of vision, and blindness. Glaucoma affects about two million people in the United States, and another twenty-five million have it but do not know it yet. Plan on seeing your ophthalmologist for an annual eye exam that can detect glaucoma in its earliest stage.
There are two kinds glaucoma. Acute glaucoma involves sudden increases in pressure, usually on one side only, causing severe throbbing pain and blurred vision. Often the condition causes nausea and vomiting. Acute glaucoma is an emergency requiring immediate medical treatment. Chronic (or open-angle) glaucoma is more gradual; the pressure builds up over the years. No symptoms may be apparent in the early stages, but there is a gradual loss of peripheral vision. If it goes untreated, blindness may result. This type of glaucoma usually results from abnormalities in the supporting tissues of the eye. These tissues are made from a protein called collagen.
By tuning up, you can help regulate the pressure in your eye. You can also provide your body the materials it needs to build sturdy collagen. One substance essential for collagen is vitamin C. The vitamin C also appears to play a role in lower fluid pressure in patients with glaucoma. A daily dose as low as 2,000 mg may provide benefits, but some studies report results only with extremely high doses.
Taking supplements of bioflavonoids support normal collagen metabolism. The compounds of special interest in this regard are the anthocyanidins, the blue-red pigments found in berries. These substances enhance the effects of vitamin C and improve the integrity of blood vessels. What's more, they improve collagen by preventing free-radical damage, by preventing enzymes from breaking it down, and by linking with collagen fibers to make a sturdier structure. My choice for this purpose is bilberry extract, although Ginkgo biloba extract also shows promise in relieving glaucoma.
Other nutrients may be valuable in support of eye health. Magnesium supplementation (600 to 900 mg daily) lowers pressure by blocking calcium, which in turn causes arms to relax. When the blood vessels relax, fluids flow more normally in and out of the eye. Too, there appears to be a strong association between glaucoma and deficiency of chromium. Maintain adequate levels of chromium appears to help reduce pressure and improve focusing power. The recommended daily dosage is 200 mcg.) Animal studies also suggest that omega-3 oils may be important for keeping pressure in the eye at appropriate levels.