Natural cures for glaucoma, others validated
As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark the World Glaucoma Week (WGW) March 12 to 19, scientists have validated extracts of bitter kola (Garcinia kola), garden egg (Solanum melongena), pepper fruit (Dennettia tripetala), carrot, garlic, pumpkin (Ugu in Igbo), amaranth (commonly called green vegetable) aniseed, almonds as natural cures for eye diseases especially cataracts and glaucoma.
Until now, bitter kola, garden egg and pepper fruit are renowned for their bitter and peppery tastes. They have been validated in clinical trials for treating various ailments such as osteoarthritis, food poisoning, indigestion, and heartburn, among many other disease indications.
But now researchers are adding more feathers to their caps. Extracts of bitter kola, garden egg and pepper fruit have shown promise as the next best eye drugs in town.
Also, researchers have found that regular consumption of fish; nuts, olive oil and other foods containing omega-three fatty acids and avoiding trans-fats may significantly lower the risk for AMD.
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a common eye condition and a leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 and older.Two earlier studies published in Archives of Ophthalmology offer hope of reducing risk of blindness due to AMD and cataract.
According to the studies, three leading causes of blindness are age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and retinopathy related to premature birth. All three conditions involve retinopathy, which is the abnormal development of blood vessels in the eye.
Meanwhile, food sources of omega-3s include leafy green vegetables, walnuts, flaxseeds and fatty fish such as salmon, herring and sardines. Omega-6s are found in meat and vegetable oils such as safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, and soy oils.
Previous studies have shown that extracts of carrots, garlic, pumpkin (Ugu in Igbo), amaranth (commonly called green vegetable) aniseed, almonds contain antioxidants that may decrease the development or progression of cataract.
Several research studies show that the antioxidant properties of vitamins C and E contained in these plants may protect against the development and progression of cataracts.
Early evidence also suggested that the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which are also antioxidants, might also be protective against cataracts. Some recent studies compared diet and supplement intake of the antioxidant vitamins C and E with the development of cataracts. However, naturopaths recommend eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Also, as part of activities to mark the World Glaucoma Week (WGW), Pfizer in collaboration with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) has urged Nigerians to avail themselves of the free nationwide screening for glaucoma as early detention can curtail its effects because it is a disease of no symptoms.
The theme for this year’s event is ‘Beating Invisible Glaucoma.’Professor of Ophthalmology at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Adebukunola O Adefule-Ositelu, told journalists that she has successfully used extracts of bitter kola (Garcinia kola) as eye drops to successfully treat patients with glaucoma. The study by Adefule-Ositelu and her team was published in Middle East African Journal of Ophthalmology.
The researchers concluded: “Topical Garcinia kola 0.5 per cent aqueous eye drops are as effective as timolol maleate 0.5 per cent eye drops in lowering Intraocular Pressure (IOP) in newly diagnosed glaucoma and ocular hypertensive patients. The mean IOP reducing efficacy after six months of use was similar in both groups. Garcinia kola extract may represent an alternate topical medication for patient with open angle glaucoma and ocular hypertensives in a resource limited population.”
Also, Nigeria researchers have shown that eating pepper fruits could decrease the risk of blindness caused by glaucoma.The researchers at the Department of Optometry Abia State University, Uturu, Abia State, have demonstrated how a meal rich in pepper fruit reduces the risk of glaucoma by stabilising the Intra Ocular Pressure (IOP) of the eye.
Botanically called Dennettia tripetala, pepper fruit belongs to the plant family Annonaceae. It is called Ako in Edo, Nkarika in Ibibio, Mmimi in Igbo, and Ata Igbere in Yoruba.
According to the Abia State University study, results obtained showed that consumption of 0.75g of seed gradually reduced the mean Intra Ocular Pressure (IOP) from 15.6mmHg to 11.20mmHg, (25.64 per cent reduction) after 60 minutes; and gradually reversed towards baseline value at 120mins-post ingestion. The mean induced change in IOP at 60 minutes was 4.00mmHg. The effect was found to be statistically significant.
Also, Nigerian researchers led by the former Director General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and professor of pharmacology at University of Nigeria (UNN), Prof. Dora Nkem Akunyili had demonstrated how a meal of garden egg would be of benefit to patients suffering from raised intraocular pressure (glaucoma) and convergence insufficiency, as well as in diseases associated with hyperlipidemia (high lipids/fats) such as ischaemic heart diseases and arteriosclerosis (stiffening of the arteries).
Botanically called Solanum melongena, garden egg or bitter tomato is an economic flowering plant belonging to the family Solanaceae.The study was published in Journal of Ethnopharmacology. The researchers concluded: “It is suggested that S. melongena would be of benefit to patients suffering from raised intraocular pressure (glaucoma) and convergence insufficiency.”
Director Cooperate Affairs Pfizer, Margret Olele, at an awareness and free screening exercise in LUTH said that one of the things Pfizer does is that at least they have journeyed with the glaucoma patients association since inception and what they do is a form of creating awareness, and ensuring that different levels of stakeholders know about of what is going on.
She added that the 1.8 million people suffering from glaucoma, is like one per cent. “It is not about the one person, the ripple effect on the society is tremendous and that is why we need to talk about it,” Olele said.
Olele explained: “We are looking at people who drive; some do not know that they have glaucoma, they do think wearing glasses will help. The accidents that have happened on the road, many lives have been lost, so there is a way to talk about glaucoma not as it affects the individual but how it affects the society.”
She also explained that they are reaching to the policy makers to lend their voice against glaucoma, though it is not moving as fast as they thought but they are forward looking in the way they drive awareness to several stakeholders for people to get to hear about it and people should be treated and tested.
Olele said that there are issues on the medicines for glaucoma but discussions have been ongoing. Pfizer and other pharmaceuticals are committed on how to make available good quality medicines at subsidised rates.
She encouraged patients’ groups in teaching hospitals and said that a lot of people will take it up because it is where patients get empowered and knowledge.
Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, Head Glaucoma Services and Acting Head of Department of Ophthalmology, College of Medicine/Lagos University Teaching Hospital (CMUL/LUTH), Idi-Araba, Dr. Adeola Onakoya, said that glaucoma is a disease of progression. “If you present yourself on time, you can be managed as it is yet to have a cure,” she said.
Onakoya recommended regular intake of green vegetables because it contains nitrate that helps in vasodilatation and encourage easy flow of blood to the body including the eye.