Counseling Sheet

Glaucoma - 1

Agatha M. Thrash, M.D.
Preventive Medicine

Increased pressure within the eyeball is called glaucoma. Normal pressure is about 15-20 mm Hg (mercury), but in glaucoma the pressure may go up to 40 mm Hg. It is estimated that one million Americans may have some degree of glaucoma. It is the most common cause of blindness over the age of 65. It tends to run in families. The buildup of pressure is caused by inability of the fluid which is constantly produced in the eye to drain through the tiny tubules which normally drain away this fluid. Symptoms include redness of the eye, decreased vision, colored halos seen around artificial lights, sometimes headache or pain in the eye, enlargement of the pupil, and nausea and vomiting. People over 40 should have an eye check for glaucoma once every year.

There are certain drugs which make glaucoma worse, including corticosteroids, even cortisone creams rubbed on the skin for eczema, nasal decongestants, many cough medicines, drugs that inhibit stomach acid secretion, antiasthmatics, antidepressants, some blood pressure-lowering and sedative drugs, appetite suppressants, and caffeine. Since so many drugs worsen glaucoma, it is a good policy not to use medicine, except as a lifesaver, and only when there is no natural remedy available. Antihistamines taken for asthma or other allergies can induce glaucoma. American Family Physician. 51(1):191;1995.


  • Glaucoma should be treated in the very same way that high blood pressure is treated, even though the blood pressure is normal. For information see our book Natural Treatments for Hypertension available for purchase with a credit card from New Lifestyle Books (800-542-5695).
  • Become a total vegetarian. Breakfast should be essentially fruits and whole grains with a few nuts and seeds. Lunch should be vegetables and whole grains with legumes (such as beans) or a few nuts or seeds. If a third meal is required, it can be of fruits and whole grains with no nuts or seeds. These basic four food items (fruits; vegetables; whole grains; and nuts, seeds, and legumes) can be prepared in thousands of delightful ways. Our cookbook Eat for Strength has many recipes. It was written for the general public, however, and has many food items that will need to be omitted. Use a fat-free, sugar-free, and salt-free diet. Remove all added sodium from the diet - monosodium glutamate, salt, non-fat dry skim milk, soy sauce, any product containing a sodium compound including many medicines (even the chemical name of penicillin is "penicillin-sodium"). Remove all sources of free fats (butter, mayonnaise, margarine, fried foods, cooking fats, salad oils, peanut butter, etc.). Reduce to the barest minimum all concentrated foods such as sugar and its relatives, refined foods of all kinds, high-protein foods, and any other concentrated nutrient. Even concentrated vitamins and minerals may be a big problem. The sweet fruits may be taken in abundance, as can creamy fruits such as avocados and bananas which can be mashed and used as a spread for bread. Remove all spices from the diet - ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, black and red pepper, etc. All of these hot spices contain such substances as capsaicin, myristicin, eugenol, etc. These are aromatic oils that injure the delicate structures of the sensory organs (balance, vision, hearing, smell, etc.). Some people are damaged by one and others by another. Still others may appear to come off free from damage, or nearly so. Onion, garlic, and herbs such as basil, dill, and sage can be used as seasonings instead of spices. Also, do not use any fermented foods of any kind, whether it be fermented garlic (Kyolic), fermented soy products such as soy sauce and tempeh, or other fermented foods such as kim chee or sauerkraut. These contain toxic amines known to damage sensitive structures in some.
  • Coleus forskohlii seems promising to reduce the pressure within the eyes. Several studies have indicated help from this common herb. Japanese Journal of Ophthalmology. 30:238; 1986.
  • Large doses of vitamin C are claimed to cure "open angle glaucoma." The patient should take as much as possible without getting diarrhea, in 3 daily doses. A group of 30 patients each showed a reduction in their eye pressure on the vitamin C supplements. Dr. Hershell Boyd commented that he had never seen a case of glaucoma in any patient who routinely took fairly large quantities of vitamin C. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine. 10(3/4):165-68, 1995.
  • A helpful treatment is the application of hot compresses to the eyes for 9 minutes, then exchange with 1 minute of cold. Repeat the process 6 times. Continue the treatment for a month or two, until improvement is obvious.
  • Take a hot foot bath (if not diabetic) every morning and every evening by all means, and again at noon if possible. This decongests the head.
  • At night one should put a very light pressure bandage on the eyes, about the equivalent of pressure from a folded wet washcloth laid on one eye when one is lying down, if the washcloth were folded so that all the weight of the wet washcloth rested on the eyeball. That much pressure can be held in place by a knit cap pulled down over the eyes and secured by a scarf tied around the head. The small amount of pressure is to encourage the eyeball to drain excessive quantities of fluid from the eyeball structures. Do not overdo the pressure.
  • One should perform a series of eye exercises and facial and neck exercises to encourage the muscles of the eyeball to massage and soothe the eyeball. The primary exercise is to turn the eyes to the full extent of their ability in all 4 quadrants and four diagonals, while keeping the nose pointed straight forward. That means to look as far to the left as possible, then as far to the right; then as far to the top, and as far to the bottom. Then split each of those by looking up to the upper left and lower right, upper right and lower left. This series should be repeated once every 10 minutes as often as it can be remembered.
  • In addition, there are some facial exercises that will be of help. Tighten the eyelids by doing what is called the "silent scream," that consists of contracting all the muscles of the face, forehead, chin, eyes, and even neck muscles while keeping the mouth as wide open as is possible as if mimicking a scream. It is somewhat of an exaggerated yawn and can be treated as a yawn when done in public. Again, if one can do it once every 10 minutes, one may get a benefit from it.
  • Intense exercise for at least 15 minutes daily will drop the intraocular pressure by as much as five millimeters of mercury. Even mild exercise can be expected to drop the pressure in the eyes by at least one millimeter of mercury. Japanese Journal of Ophthalmology. 38:191; 1994. The reduction in pressure continues for at least 2 hours following the exercise.
  • Avoid emotional upsets. Stress increases blood pressure, and is just as likely to increase eye pressure.
  • Avoid heavy straining, either at stool or in lifting or pushing.
  • Avoid overweight. Overweight increases the incidence and severity of all diseases.
  • Avoid coffee, tea, colas, and chocolate, even if they have been decaffeinated. There are toxic alkaloids other than caffeine.
  • Obey all known health laws, those dealing with fresh air, sunshine, rest, proper diet, exercise, abundance of water, moderation in all things, and trust in divine power. Avoid slant-boards or other upside down positions, or lying face down unless you lie on a wedge elevator. Do not use tobacco, drugs, alcohol, medications known to make high blood pressure worse, cortisone-type drugs (even for skin disorders), motion sickness drugs, or drugs for angina.
  • Do not overeat, as that raises the pressure in many organs.
  • Hypothyroidism has been associated with glaucoma and increased pressure within the eyes. Treat the person with glaucoma for 2 weeks with the thyroid routine in this book, and retest the eye pressure.
  • If diabetes is present, it should be corrected through diet and exercise, as it increases the severity of glaucoma.
  • Glaucoma is often related to a food sensitivity, and every attempt should be made to discover the foods to which the person is sensitive. The blood pressure may respond to the diet, giving one an index to the foods involved. Write to request the Elimination and Challenge Diet.
  • A diet low in fat and centered around vegetables reduces both systemic hypertension and reduces the pressure within the eyes.
  • Nicotine is an optic nerve toxin and should be avoided.
  • Many drugs cause damage to the optic nerve and encourage deterioration. These include Ibuprofen, aspirin, tranquilizers, anti-depressants, anti-diabetic drugs, antibiotics, and steroids.
  • A 4-day water fast can bring the pressure down as much as 5 units. One woman brought her pressure from 30 down to 26 during a 4-day fast. One should then take 4-6 days to break the fast, using only a vegan diet thereafter, as it is the most favorable diet in glaucoma.

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