Do You See What I See?

Part 2 of the Healthy Eyes Series

If you are interested in learning about Macular Degeneration and Diabetic Retinopathy you’ll find that info in part 1 here. In part 2 we’ll focus on Glaucoma, Cataracts, eye health, nutrition and preventive measures to maintain healthy eyes and clear vision for a lifetime.

Glaucoma is the name for a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve and can result in vision loss and blindness. The most prevalent kind is called Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma (POAG) which accounts for at least 90% of glaucoma cases. It’s this type that we’ll discuss.

The front part of the eye (the anterior chamber) is filled with a clear fluid (aqueous humor) that supplies amino acids, glucose, vitamin C and other nutrients to the lens and cornea. This fluid is designed to circulate and flow freely back into the blood stream as more is constantly being made. In POAG the drainage canals slowly become clogged which results in increased eye pressure. This pressure causes damage to the optic nerve. This can happen in one or both eyes.

Glaucoma can go undiagnosed for a long time while permanent damage is developing without any early symptoms. Early detection is essential for preventing serious vision loss.  Vision loss from glaucoma is irreversible. This disease is progressive; without treatment it leads to loss of peripheral (side) vision that steadily develops into tunnel vision until eventually all vision may be lost.

Not everyone with increased eye pressure develops glaucoma, and some develop glaucoma without an increase in eye pressure. It all depends on the level of pressure the optic nerve can handle without being damaged.

Hypertension, diabetes, chronic eye inflammation, smoking, a history of migraines and myopia may increase risks for POAG. Many pharmaceutical drugs cause drug-induced glaucoma and/or exacerbate existing glaucoma. Check with your pharmacist to learn if any of the OTC or prescription medications you use are known to increase glaucoma risk. Inform your ophthalmologist of all of the medications you take and make regular visits for eye exams especially if you are at high risk or notice changes in your vision.

Currently more than 3 million Americans, especially aged 40+, are living with glaucoma. At higher risk are people with African-Caribbean ancestry over 40, anyone over 60 (especially Mexican Americans) and people with a family history of glaucoma. The older you are the higher your risk of glaucoma, no matter your race.

Preventing free-radical damage may help to prevent POAG. Optic nerve cells in people with glaucoma are more sensitive to free radical damage than in those without. Antioxidants prevent free radicals from damaging healthy cells throughout the body and brain.

Maintaining healthy eyes (not just glaucoma) requires a diverse selection of antioxidant nutrients from food and supplements. Aim to eat foods from each category daily:

Vitamin A and precursors: liver, cheese, butter, yams, winter squash (cooked), kale (cooked), collards (cooked), carrots (cooked), chard (raw), spinach (raw), sweet red pepper (raw).

Vitamin C: guava, black currants, raw red and green peppers, kiwi, orange, strawberries, limes, papaya, broccoli (cooked), tomatoes, snow peas, kale (cooked).

Vitamin E: almonds, dark green leafy veggies, yam, avocado, wheat germ, sunflower seeds. Supplements of vitamin E provide much more than foods.

Selenium: Brazil nuts, yellowfin tuna, halibut, sardines, grass-fed beef, turkey, beef liver, chicken.

Polyphenols: cranberries, dark chocolate, red wine (in small amounts), berries, pomegranate, green and black tea, curcumin, beans, nuts.

Anthocyanins: blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, sweet cherries, grape juice, plums, prunes, red cabbage, black rice, blue corn, eggplant skin.

Lycopene: guava, cooked tomatoes, watermelon, papaya, grapefruit, cooked sweet red peppers, asparagus (also a glutathione “master antioxidant” source), mango, red cabbage, carrots.

Lutein and zeaxanthin: green leafy veggies are the best source; kiwi, grapes, spinach, zucchini, oranges, non-GMO corn and squash.

Lignans: Flax, sesame, pumpkin, poppy and sunflower seeds; rye, oats, barley; bran; beans; berries.

Zinc: Cashews and other nuts, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, wheat germ, beef, lamb, shellfish, beans. If taking a zinc supplement make sure it is a chelated form, not zinc oxide.

Omega-3 fatty acids: Flaxseeds, flax oil, ground chia seeds, hemp seeds, omega 3 eggs, walnuts, Pacific & Atlantic Ocean fish; fish oil supplements.

CoQ10: from supplements.

Vitamins B2, B6 and B12: from supplements.

Gingko biloba extract: from supplements may be especially helpful in cases of glaucoma.

Magnesium (chelated): from supplements.


50% of Americans aged 80+ either have cataracts or have had cataract surgery. Clouding of the natural lens of the eye is the most common cause of vision loss in people over 40, and is by far the most common cause of blindness worldwide. The main symptom is blurry vision, like looking through a fogged-up window, due to light being blocked from coming through. Some people notice glare, halos around lights, poor night vision, faded colors and/or double vision.

Typically cataracts develop slowly, with the exception of Posterior subcapsular cataracts, which are most common in people under 60. They are often caused by trauma, radiation or steroids prescribed to treat other issues. Nuclear sclerotic cataracts are the most common type, causing the center of the eye to slowly become yellow or brown. Cortical cataracts resemble white, wedge-shaped spokes around the periphery of the lens.

Evidence shows that cataract development is closely linked to high blood sugar levels. (Diabetes is the primary cause of blindness in people from 20 to 74 years of age.) Cataracts are caused by the binding of protein and sugar molecules (glycation) clumping together causing progressive clouding of the lens.

A variety of toxins, including drugs of all types, smoking and alcohol create free radicals that damage healthy cells and can lead directly to cataracts and other vision problems. Prolonged exposure to UVA and UVB rays from sunlight can significantly increase your risk of cataracts. It’s also recommended to limit wheat, dairy and soy products due to their tendency to block capillaries that deliver nutrients to the eyes.

With an anti-oxidant-rich diet (as detailed above), smart supplementation and other suggested preventative measures it may be possible to prevent and even reverse developing cataracts (and other vision problems) by improving overall metabolic function.

Other “Healthy Eyes” Suggestions for Everyone

Wear protective eyewear with 100% UVA and UVB protection

Get regular eye exams, every 1-3 years before the age of 65 and annually from 65 on.

Avoid tobacco and E-cigarettes

20-20-20 Rule: when using an electronic device or computer look away every 20 minutes at something that is at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Remind yourself to blink more often to moisten the eyes instead of staring at the screen.

Use blue-blocking eyeglass lens whenever you use an electronic device. Blue light from the screen is potentially damaging to the macula and may lead to macular degeneration.

Eye exercises strengthen eye muscles helping to oxygenate the eyes and facilitate drainage of aqueous humor. Ask your ophthalmologist to teach you, or check out videos online, and do them daily. They are easy and many people notice significant and rapid improvement in their vision as a result.

Sunlight:  Before 9 am or after 5 pm spend 30-60 minutes daily getting sunlight into your eyes. Light “feeds” and supports the hypothalamus and eyes, helps improve retinal health and balances circadian rhythm.

Take a high quality vision support supplement daily from a company you trust.

Limit your sugar consumption, and maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

Avoid aspartame. The methyl alcohol it contains is toxic to the optic nerves, possibly leading to atrophy, retinal starvation and vision loss/blindness.