How Exercise Can Affect Glaucoma

The goal of glaucoma therapy is to lower intraocular pressure (IOP) using medication, surgery or laser treatment. However, another form of treatment is emerging, and it’s something that can be done by almost anyone – exercise.

Researchers are currently studying the potential benefits that aerobic exercise can have on glaucoma. So far, there is some evidence that suggests that aerobic exercise can reduce eye pressure and have a positive effect on glaucoma. Specific forms of exercise, such as walking, jogging, swimming and cycling, are found to be most effective at lowering IOP.

Let’s learn more about what the research says about the relationship between exercise and glaucoma.

Aerobic Exercise May Lower Eye Pressure

Intraocular pressure is the most common cause of glaucoma. This condition is usually diagnosed at the eye doctor’s office, as there are no symptoms like eye pain or eye redness. As the pressure builds, it presses on the optic nerve, leading to glaucoma.

By exercising, you can reduce this pressure and lower the risk of damage to the optic nerve. Also, lowering IOP protects the retinal ganglion cells, which are responsible for carrying information from the eye to the brain.  

Aerobic Exercise May Improve Blood Flow to the Retina

Early research shows that aerobic exercise may increase blood flow to the retina and optic nerve. As with other parts of the body, the eyes need good circulation to stay healthy. When you exercise, the blood vessels dilate and carry more blood throughout the body. This happens in the eyes as well, supplying the retina and optic nerve with nutrient-rich blood.

Even Light Exercise Can Do the Trick

Another interesting finding is that you don’t have to exercise vigorously to see the benefits to glaucoma. Intraocular pressure can be reduced by exercise that raises the pulse by 20-25%. A brisk walk through your neighborhood for 20 minutes several days of the week may be enough to reduce IOP and prevent long-term damage.

Some Exercises Should be Avoided

Some exercises should be avoided, as they can have a negative impact on IOP. For example, exercises that require you to stand on your head or shoulders should be omitted from your list. These types of movements can be found in activities like yoga or bungee jumping. Also, exercises that require you to hold your breath can have a negative effect on IOP as well.

Regular Exercise is the Key to Good Eye Health

It’s important to point out that the benefits of aerobic exercise will diminish if you don’t continue exercising. If you work out for a few months and then stop for several weeks, you may reverse the good you’ve done. This is why it’s best to start an aerobic workout plan and stick with it. Of course, always talk to your doctor before starting any exercise regimen.

We still have a lot to learn about how exercise can improve eye conditions like glaucoma, but so far, the research is promising. When you work out, you not only lower the risk for glaucoma but also hypertension and diabetes. If 20 minutes of exercise 4-5 days per week can have this big of an impact on your health, it’s worth talking to your doctor about.