There may be a new ray of hope for glaucoma patients striving to preserve their vision. According to a recent study that appears in August’s online issue of BMC Ophthalmology, just ten minutes daily of aerobic exercise may help prevent further vision loss.
Researchers from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the Department of Anesthesiology at the “G.Papanikolaou” Regional Hospital in Thessaloniki, Greece, sought to explore the effects of exercise on medicated patients with primary open angle glaucoma (POAG).
Glaucoma is a disease that causes damage to the optic nerve, often resulting in severe vision loss or blindness. It is an irreversible condition that affects roughly 4 million people in the United States, about half of whom are unaware that they have it. Women, persons with diabetes or stroke, and African American men over 40 are at a greater risk.
Although glaucoma is typically seen in the elderly (persons over 60), everyone is at risk. Glaucoma may develop with or without symptoms, and as many as 10 percent of people receiving proper treatment will still experience vision loss. High intraocular pressure (IOP) is one of its many risk factors.
“Since exercise increases systemic fibrinolytic activity (such as dissolving blood clots), one can speculate that exercise decreases intraocular pressure by facilitating (uveoscleral) outflow,” authors of the study wrote.”
Based on this information, researchers gathered data from 145 individuals—100 healthy and 45 with POAG. Prior to testing researchers checked IMP levels using Goldmann’s applanation tonometry, a method of measuring the amount of pressure needed to flatten the cornea.
IMP was measured again hours after receiving medicated eye drops. Participants were then asked to engage in “moderate to sub-maximal” aerobic exercise (on a bicycle) for 10 minutes, after which IOP data was again measured. All participants experienced lower IOP levels, even in the participants who received no medication.
“Regardless of the antiglaucoma medication instilled, they still benefited from the aerobic exercise since they all had a post-exercise reduction of IOP,” the authors wrote in the study. “It is obvious that these patients should be encouraged to perform aerobic exercise.”
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