Can Exercise Lower Eye Pressure?

If you have glaucoma, you know that maintaining normal eye pressure is important. There is no cure for glaucoma, and damage to the optic nerve is irreversible, so it is essential to do everything possible to lower intraocular pressure.

There is a recent study that suggests that physical exercise may reduce intraocular eye pressure and may help reduce other glaucoma risk factors such as diabetes and hypertension. Harry A. Quigley, MD, professor and director of glaucoma services at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, analyzed the results of the study. Dr. Quigley responded, “Aerobic exercise is known to lower intraocular pressure, which we know protects retinal ganglion cells. And short-term studies show it may improve blood flow to the retina and optic nerve as well.”

So how much exercise is necessary to offer neuroprotection? The answer is probably much lower than you think. Eye pressure can be lowered by exercise that raises the pulse just 20 to 25 percent, and this equates to a brisk, 20 minute walk a minimum of four times per week. This is an achievable goal that anyone can accomplish!

Exercise may not help all cases of glaucoma. In fact, the effectiveness of exercise on intraocular pressure may vary from individual to individual, and only your eye doctor can evaluate the result of exercise on your glaucoma. Certain types of glaucoma seem unresponsive to exercise. Closed-angle glaucoma appears to be particularly unresponsive to physical activity, and pigmentary glaucoma can actually increase intraocular pressure. Before you begin an exercise regimen in hopes of lowering your intraocular pressure, talk to your doctor to get approval that your desired exercise program will benefit your glaucoma (Source: Glaucoma Research Foundation).

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