Weed? Yoga? Leafy Greens? 5 Dos And Surprising Don’ts If You Have Glaucoma

Woman doing a headstand in a parkGlaucoma is one of the leading causes of preventable blindness in the world. The good news is that vision loss can be prevented when glaucoma is diagnosed and treated early. A healthy diet and exercise can also help; however, some lifestyle choices can do more harm than good.We asked Key-Whitman Eye Center’s Arlington ophthalmologist Ronald M. Barke to share his insight on what people should and shouldn’t do when it comes to managing glaucoma. He recommends the following:

DO See Your Eye Doctor Regularly If You’re At Increased Risk For Glaucoma.

According to Dr. Barke, age is the most important risk factor for glaucoma, but it isn’t the only one. As he explains, “Family history certainly plays a role, as do certain medical conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and rheumatologic conditions. Unhealthy eating, poor exercise habits and some certain lifestyle choices can also contribute to the disease.”

For those at risk, having an eye doctor regularly monitor the health of the eye is critical, because glaucoma is a silent disease. The only way to find out if you have glaucoma is through an eye exam.

“Glaucoma is a condition where damage occurs to the optic nerve in the back of the eyes, primarily due to pressure to the optic nerve. However, glaucoma is similar to blood pressure, in that you can’t feel the pressure. So, by the time you start losing vision, and notice you have a problem, it’s too late,” Dr. Barke says.

DON’T Smoke Marijuana.

Celebrities like Roseanne Barr and Whoopi Goldberg have touted the use of marijuana for treating their glaucoma. But Dr. Barke says, not so fast.

As he explains, “One of the theories as to why some people’s glaucoma progresses is because they have wide fluctuations in intraocular pressure throughout the day and from day to day. If you use a treatment that lowers pressure for a short duration, as marijuana does, your pressure could rebound right back up, and that could make the glaucoma worse.”

Dr. Barke explains why smoking pot isn’t a practical solution for treating glaucoma.

DO Eat Right.

It’s no secret, eating healthy foods is good for you, and recent studies suggest eating certain foods can lower the risk for glaucoma by as much as 20 to 30 percent. “Foods like leafy greens that are plentiful in antioxidants and healthy dietary nitrates may help deter glaucoma,” says Dr. Barke.

DO Keep Moving.

As with other health conditions, an active lifestyle can reduce the risk of glaucoma for some people. In fact, researchers at the University of California Los Angeles who reviewed long-term data on American adults found that, “the most physically active folks were 73 percent less likely to develop glaucoma than the least active individuals. For each 10-minute increase in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity a week, the risk of glaucoma fell by 25 percent.”

DON’T Do Yoga Or Inversion Therapy.

Yoga offers many health benefits and inversion therapy – hanging upside down by the ankles or feet – can do wonders for the back. “Unfortunately, people with glaucoma should avoid activities that cause blood to rush to the head and increase pressure in the eyes, which is bad for glaucoma,” warns Dr. Barke.

Dr. Barke discusses how some fitness fads, like yoga and inversion therapy, may put glaucoma patients at risk.

If You’re At Risk For Glaucoma, We Can Help

As with most eye diseases and conditions, early diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma is key for preventing vision loss. Key-Whitman offers a wide range of treatments to keep intraocular pressure (IOP) at a healthy level.

The primary objective of glaucoma treatment is to lower IOP. Secondarily, there are some treatments available that may help improve circulation. Most patients respond positively to glaucoma eye drops, but other forms of treatment are available, depending on the patient’s needs.

Learn about the benefits of iStent, a tiny medical device implanted during cataract surgery, in this past post.

According to Dr. Barke, “We can use a laser to open the outflow channels to help manage pressure or perform surgery to reroute fluid in the eye so it drains more easily. Some new glaucoma treatment research also shows promise, including a procedure where a tiny pellet implanted in the eye delivers a sustained dose of glaucoma medication. This treatment will be effective for patients, because they won’t have to remember to take eye drops anymore.”

If you have concerns about your vision and would like to discuss glaucoma treatment options, contact us. You can schedule an eye health exam in Arlington with Dr. Barke or with one of our other eye doctors in Arlington, Dallas, Plano or Mesquite – please call (214) 225-2577, or feel free to set up an appointment online here.


Dr. Ronald Barke is a board certified ophthalmologist who has been practicing in Arlington, Texas since 1995. He has performed thousands of cataract and refractive surgeries during his career and also serves on the faculty at UT/Southwestern Medical Center where he teaches in the resident training program.

Photo Source: Adobe Stock