Glaucoma is the second leading cause of impaired vision in America, after cataracts. There are many drugs used to treat this disease: beta blockers, adrenergic agonists, cholinergic agonists, cholinesterase inhibitors, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors and prostaglandin analog.
All have unwelcome side effects. A review article in the medical literature describes nutritional products that may benefit glaucoma patients, either alone or in combination with standard drugs.
1. Melatonin: Normal intraocular pressure changes over the course of a day, with the lowest pressure observed in the early morning hours when natural melatonin levels are highest. Beta blocker drugs used to treat glaucoma have been reported to decrease melatonin levels, so a combination of melatonin and beta blockers may have value;
2. Magnesium: A subgroup of glaucoma patients has normal intraocular pressure, but optic nerve damage caused by decreased blood supply to the optic nerve. The standard treatment is calcium channel blocker drugs. Magnesium is believed to be a natural calcium channel blocker, so supplements may be beneficial together with or instead of these drugs;
3. Coenzyme Q10: Beta blocker drugs also have cardiac side effects, including bradycardia (slow heart rate) and heart failure. CoQ10 has been observed to decrease these effects;
4. Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus): A study of eight patients with glaucoma showed improvement after a single dose of 800 mg bilberry extract. The mechanism is thought to be a collagen stabilizing effect to allow normal fluid flow in the eye;
5. Ginkgo biloba: Two clinical trials showed improvement in glaucoma patients who took ginkgo biloba 120 - 160 mg/day for up to four weeks. Increased blood flow to the optic nerve may be the primary benefit;
6. Forskolin: In studies of animals and healthy volunteers, this herbal supplement decreased intraocular pressure in some but not all trials;
7. Salvia miltiorrhiza: Injections of this Chinese botanical improved visual acuity human studies. The mechanism is believed to be increased microcirculation to the retina;