A new study suggests that aerobic exercise could help lower intraocular eye pressure for certain types of glaucoma. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve due to increased eye pressure. There is no cure for glaucoma, and damage to the optic nerve is irreversible, so finding ways to lower intraocular pressure is imperative. Harry A. Quigley, M.D., professor and director of glaucoma services at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, assisted the research. Dr. Quigley stated, “Aerobic exercise is known to lower intraocular pressure (IOP), which we know protects retinal ganglion cells. And short-term studies show it may improve blood flow to the retinal and optic nerve as well.”
Glaucoma affects over 3 million Americans. Although glaucoma can affect individuals of all ages, the risk of glaucoma increases around the age of 40. Because glaucoma often has no symptoms in the early stages, regular comprehensive eye exams are necessary to help diagnose glaucoma to prevent vision loss and maintain a healthy IOP. For mild cases of glaucoma, eye drops are often prescribed to help lower eye pressure (Source: Web MD).
Dr. Quigley’s research indicates that exercise can help reduce eye pressure on its own, and it does not require athletic training or hours of your time. In fact, intraocular pressure can be lowered by physical activity that raises the pulse only 20 to 25 percent. An example of this type of exercise is a simple, 20-minute walk at least four times per week. This is possible for someone at almost any age! The challenge is staying consistent for the long-term and making exercise a part of your daily schedule.
Exercise can do more than just lower eye pressure, though. The study also shows that exercise can help lower other glaucoma risk factors like diabetes and hypertension. Before you introduce a new exercise regimen, make sure to make an appointment with your primary care physician and your eye doctor. Certain types of glaucoma like closed-angle glaucoma and pigmentary glaucoma may not respond to exercise or may be adversely affected by exercise. Your PCP and your eye care specialist can work together to provide guidance and measured results to show that your approved exercise plan is helping to improve your glaucoma (Source: Glaucoma Research Foundation).