Glaucoma is a type of eye condition that can ultimately lead to blindness. There are multiple types of glaucoma, which affects the optic nerve. Typically, pressure in the eye damages this nerve, impacting eyesight. While what you eat can’t necessarily cause or treat glaucoma, your diet could impact your risk of developing the condition.
How Diet Affects Eye Health
Eating healthier foods can benefit your entire body. Good overall health can also have a positive impact on more specific parts of your health. For eye health in particular, however, it’s important to avoid foods that can cause a rise in blood pressure or eye pressure.
Studies have connected diet with the risk of glaucoma and found that eating healthier can help to reduce your risk.
Can Your Diet Treat Existing Glaucoma?
If you already have glaucoma, then you may be wondering if your diet can help to lessen the impact or slow the progression of the disease.
Most studies that looked into the connection between diet and glaucoma focused on the role diet might play in glaucoma’s development rather than how one’s diet might affect the progression of the disease after diagnosis.
However, it can’t hurt to eat more healthily or to avoid foods that are known to raise eye pressure.
What Foods and Drinks Can Help Eye Health?
Some foods and beverages may be able to help you to lower your risk of glaucoma or to reduce its effects. None of these foods or beverages are guaranteed to have any impact, but they may be able to lower eye pressure or improve your health overall, which may have an effect on glaucoma because they can help improve eye health.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids can have a positive impact on your health. In fact, a diet lacking in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can increase your risk of developing glaucoma.
Findings on the link between antioxidants and a decreased risk of glaucoma are inconclusive, but they’re good for your health in general. Leafy greens like kale are good sources of antioxidants in food.
Be careful of seeking out antioxidants in alcoholic beverages like red wine, however.
Dietary nitrates come from green leafy vegetables and are associated with good eye health and a lower risk of glaucoma. If you already have glaucoma, then leafy green vegetables may not help slow the progression of the disease, but they can help improve overall health, which is also good for your eye health.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are filled with vitamins, in particular, vitamins A and C, which can help your eye health.
Another healthy option is foods that have complex carbohydrates. These foods can include vegetables and beans.
What Foods and Drinks Don’t Help Eye Health?
Whether you already have glaucoma or want to avoid developing it, the following foods may not help your eye health at all or may actively have a negative impact.
Caffeine in small amounts is okay. For example, a single cup of coffee is unlikely to have a major impact on your eye health. However, drinking a lot of caffeinated beverages can result in a rise in eye pressure, which is a contributing factor to glaucoma. Therefore, it can be a good idea to switch to decaf after the first cup if you’d like to continue drinking your usual amount of coffee, tea, or soda.
Alcohol has been linked to lower eye pressure. However, it only has this effect over a short-term period and no study has proven that drinking alcohol can reduce the risk of glaucoma or impact its progression in any way. It’s a good idea to consume alcohol in moderation if you drink it at all.
It may be tempting to take vitamins to supplement your diet instead of getting essential nutrients from healthy food. However, the vitamin industry in the United States isn’t well-regulated and there’s no proof that vitamins, even those marketed as eye vitamins, will help your eye health at all. If you’d like to take a multivitamin, talk to your eye doctor to determine what would be the best one for your eye health.
Foods with simple carbohydrates can increase your cholesterol and damage your blood vessels. This could possibly damage the optic nerve and increase the risk of or worsen glaucoma. Foods with simple carbohydrates include:
- Baked goods
Trans Fatty Acids
Foods that are high in trans fatty acids can cause weight gain. While this may not increase the risk of glaucoma directly, it can harm your health. Ultimately, this could end up impacting your risk of glaucoma via other eye conditions. Foods with trans fatty acids include:
- Red meats
If you have any food allergies, be careful to avoid them, even if the allergic reaction is mild. Any allergic reaction can act as a trigger that can impact your eye health and potentially increase your risk of glaucoma.