Can Glutathione Help Prevent Serious Eye Disease?
Recent scientific studies indicate that glutathione, the natural antioxidant produced by all living cells in our bodies can help prevent serious eye diseases, including glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, retinal disorders and blindness caused by diabetes. Glutathione plays an important role in maintaining and protecting eye health in people of all ages, especially those approaching their 60s and 70s.
Glutathione helps detoxify the aqueous fluid of the inner eye and has been shown to increase fluid outflow in people with glaucoma. Glutathione exists in extremely high concentrations in the lens of the eye and is essential in maintaining lens health. Damaged lenses can cause distorted vision and may lead to the development of glaucoma and cataracts. The levels of glutathione in the eye gradually decrease with age and can diminish rapidly due to the formation or growth of cataracts. It has been shown that sulfur is necessary to produce and maintain healthy glutathione levels. Sulfur can be found in many fresh foods including eggs, garlic, onions and asparagus. Increased sulfur in the body help increase the levels of glutathione in the eyes.
The focusing lens of the eye is the only organ in the human body that does not lose or shed cells. Nutrients are delivered to the lens through the aqueous fluid rather than directly through the bloodstream, as is the case with most organ cells. Researchers indicate that in order to maintain eye health and prevent diseases that may cause blindness, antioxidant levels in the eye must be significantly higher than found in healthy blood plasma.
Glaucoma, the most serious of all eye diseases, typically leads to irreversible blindness if not treated. Glaucoma begins with an elevation of fluid pressure within the eye. If not diagnosed and treated, the increased pressure can restrict blood flow within the eye, eventually leading to irreversible optic nerve damage. Once an optic nerve is damaged or obstructed by an accumulation of fluid causing pressure within the eye, blindness will occur, usually within approximately five years. Glaucoma, in its early stages, may not cause symptoms. As the disease progresses and worsens over time, eye pain, pressure and gradual loss of vision will occur.
Several recent studies have shown that low levels of glutathione and oxidative stress are definitively linked to the development and progression of glaucoma. Researchers have discovered that a correlation between free radicals and oxidative stress in the eye drainage system, often referred to as the tear duct system, can lead to DNA damage and a significant increase in eye pressure, both of which contribute to a rapid progression of glaucoma. Glaucoma has been characterized as a neurodegenerative disorder, causing an oxidative response to the optic nerve. Cell death within and around the optic nerve and retina cannot be successfully treated.
When oxidative stress occurs in the eye, the resulting damage causes fluid accumulation in the retina. Retinal damage can lead to distorted vision, retinal detachment and potential hemorrhages from accumulation of ocular fluid and blood cells that become trapped between the retina and optic nerve. There are several types of retinal diseases, most of which require surgery to correct. As with glaucoma, the majority of retinal diseases or disorders are irreversible and eventually cause partial or total loss of vision.
Decreased levels of glutathione are linked to macular degeneration, one of the most common eye diseases affecting people of all ages. Macular degeneration is a condition in which the center of the inner lining of the eye starts to thin, causing optic nerve damage and potential bleeding. The loss of vision in the center of the visual field causes blurred vision, impaired night vision and difficulty reading. Macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of blindness in people 50 years of age or older. Research studies indicate that people diagnosed with macular degeneration have decreased levels of glutathione in eye cells. A recent study found that low levels of glutathione are associated with rapid progression of the disease. The same study showed that high levels of glutathione are associated with healthy eyes and the prevention of eye disease.
Several medical studies have shown that glutathione levels play a vital role in cellular defense against oxidative stress in the eyes. There is a definitive connection between eye diseases and low levels of glutathione. Glutathione is a primary element essential to the transmission of optic nerve impulses. The aqueous fluid delivers important antioxidants to the front of the eye. This keeps the fluid drain from becoming clogged, allowing fluid to drain out of the eye in a way that maintains normal fluid pressure within the eye. If fluid drainage becomes obstructed, pressure increases, causing impaired side vision.
It is apparent that low levels of glutathione negatively impact cellular health and activity in most bodily organs and systems. Cellular death, combined with impaired DNA and RNA synthesis have been linked to multiple serious diseases, including cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and hormonal disorders. Low levels of this essential antioxidant are also associated with infertility and the development and progression of many types of cancer.
The key to good health is the prevention of disease. Simple blood tests can give you and your healthcare provider important information concerning your levels of glutathione, amino acids and other nutrients essential to protect and maintain good health. Although glutathione is available in many fresh vegetables, fruits, fish and other types of food, many of the nutrients and antioxidant properties are degraded by the body's digestive system. There are several supplements available to help increase and maintain optimal glutathione levels. It is best to speak with your naturopathic pharmacist or health care professional before beginning a regimen of supplements. It is important to understand potential interactions between supplements and any current medications you may be taking.
Multiple research studies indicate that glutathione increases cellular health and helps protect our bodies from harmful bacteria, viruses, chemicals and toxins. Healthy glutathione levels can also minimize the development, growth and spread of cancer cells. Although our bodies produce glutathione regularly, the use of supplements may add an extra boost needed to maintain optimal health.