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What Not to Eat if You Have Glaucoma

Reviewed on 5/1/2019

Ask a Doctor

I was just diagnosed with glaucoma and I’m trying to control my intra-ocular pressure as best I can with a minimal amount of medication. The possibility of going blind was a wakeup call to start exercising and lowering my high blood pressure. I’m also eating healthier too, but I wonder, is there a specific glaucoma diet? Is there a list of foods not to eat when you have glaucoma?

Doctor’s Response

There is no proven connection between specific foods you eat and glaucoma. However, some studies have shown that considerable caffeine intake over a short time may elevate intraocular eye pressure (IOP) for up to three hours, so people with glaucoma may be advised to avoid caffeine.

In addition, consuming large amounts of water (one quart, or 4 cups) in a short time (20 minutes) can also increase intraocular eye pressure, so people with glaucoma should drink water in smaller amounts spread throughout the day.

In most cases, the best prevention for glaucoma is early detection. If detected early, vision loss and blindness may be prevented. Anyone older than 20 years should have a glaucoma screening. Periodic eye examinations are indicated for the rest of your life to help prevent and identify glaucoma, especially if you have certain risk factors such as being an African American or having a family history of glaucoma.

Glaucoma involves increased pressure within the eye. In the normal eye, a clear fluid called aqueous humor is produced in the rear chamber and flows through the pupil into the front chamber. Once in the front part of the eye, the fluid drains out of the eye through an area called the canal of Schlemm. Aqueous humor provides structural support, oxygen, and nutrition to tissues within the eye.

  • Increased IOP results from either increased production or decreased drainage of aqueous humor. The resulting increase in pressure within the eye may eventually damage the optic nerve. This increase in IOP is by far the most common risk factor for vision loss due to glaucoma, but it is not the only factor involved.
  • For many years, it was believed that high IOP was the primary cause of optic nerve damage in glaucoma. Now we know that even people with normal IOP can experience vision loss from glaucoma. On the other hand, some people with high IOP never develop the optic nerve damage of glaucoma. Therefore, other factors may affect the optic nerve even when IOP is within the normal range.
  • Elevated IOP is still considered a major risk factor for glaucoma, though, because studies have shown that the higher the IOP is, the more likely the optic nerve will be damaged.
  • No one knows why certain ethnic groups, such as African Americans, have higher rates of glaucoma that lead to blindness. Primary open-angle glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness among African Americans and Alaska Natives, occurring 6-8 times more often than in whites.

For more information, read our full medical article on glaucoma.

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Reviewed on 5/1/2019
References
Robert J Noecker, MD coauthored this article.

REFERENCE:

Glaucoma Research Foundation. Can diet affect glaucoma? 29 October 2017. 2 January 2019 .
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