Is There a Link Between Vitamin D Deficiency and Glaucoma?

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Glaucoma, a group of eye diseases, is generally the result of pressure on the eyes. It damages the optic nerve responsible for transmitting visual information. Age is one of the risk factors for glaucoma, but over the years, researchers have also found a link between vitamin D deficiency and glaucoma. Vitamin D is mostly known for contributing in bone health. But can vitamin D also help in treating glaucoma? On World Glaucoma Day, we tell you the connection between vitamin D and glaucoma. 

What is glaucoma?

A group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve is called glaucoma. It is often associated with increased pressure inside the eye, known as intraocular pressure, but can also occur with normal pressure, says eye surgeon Dr Rani Menon. It typically causes peripheral vision loss, which may go unnoticed until significant damage occurs. Over time, central vision can also be affected, leading to difficulty with activities like reading or recognising faces.

What are the symptoms of glaucoma?

It typically progresses slowly without symptoms until significant vision loss occurs. But there may be some signs of glaucoma:

1. Eye pain or redness

In some cases, glaucoma can cause eye discomfort, often described as a dull ache or intermittent sharp pain. Redness of the eye may also be present, especially during acute episodes of increased intraocular pressure.

2. Halos around lights

People with glaucoma may experience halos or rainbow-coloured rings around lights, particularly in low-light conditions. This is due to light scattering caused by changes in the eye's structure and fluid dynamics, explains the expert.

3. Blurred vision

As glaucoma progresses, people may notice gradual blurring of their vision, making it difficult to see objects clearly. This blurriness may fluctuate and worsen over time, affecting daily activities and quality of life.

What are the causes of glaucoma?

Glaucoma's exact cause isn't fully understood, but it is primarily attributed to increased eye pressure, known as intraocular pressure which damages the optic nerve. This elevated pressure typically occurs due to a buildup of aqueous humor, the fluid that nourishes the eye, shares the expert. However, glaucoma can also develop with normal IOP, indicating other contributing factors. These may include impaired drainage of the aqueous humor, optic nerve susceptibility to pressure, or poor blood flow to the optic nerve. Also, age, genetics, and certain medical conditions like diabetes or hypertension can increase the risk of developing glaucoma.

Can vitamin D help in treating glaucoma?

While research suggests a potential link between vitamin D deficiency and glaucoma, conclusive evidence regarding its role in prevention or treatment remains limited. According to a 2020 study published in the Journal Français d'Ophtalmologie, dietary supplementation of vitamin D may be used as an additional treatment for glaucoma. But as per a 2021 study published in the Saudi Journal of Opthalmology, vitamin D level may not contribute in augmenting glaucoma's severity and progression.

However, further research is needed to establish definitive conclusions and determine optimal vitamin D levels for prevention and treatment, says Dr Menon. Also, factors such as age, genetics, and overall eye health play significant roles in glaucoma development.

What are the ways to prevent glaucoma?

Apart from monitoring vitamin D intake, several lifestyle measures can help prevent glaucoma.

Regular eye exams must be done for early detection and treatment. Maintain a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise and a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

Avoid smoking.

Manage conditions like diabetes and hypertension, which are linked to an increased risk of glaucoma.

Protect your eyes from injury.

Practice proper eye hygiene, such as avoid eye rubbing.

Getting sufficient vitamin D through sunlight exposure, diet, or supplements may be beneficial for your overall health, but it should be part of a comprehensive approach to eye care.

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