Glaucoma: Can Meditation Help?

Editor: Dr. Russel Lazarus, Published March 1, 2021

Could meditation be the next glaucoma ‘wonder drug’?

Can adding meditation to your day help manage your glaucoma?

Glaucoma affects 65 million people worldwide, and it’s estimated that 10 percent of these are legally blind, many people wonder what can be done to prevent or help with the treatment.

Eye pressure, also called intraocular pressure or IOP, is a measurement of the fluid pressure inside the eye. Glaucoma is a common eye condition where the increased pressure causes the optic nerve to be damaged.

This condition is usually caused by fluid building up in the front part of the eye, which increases pressure inside the eye. This damage to the optic nerve causes permanent vision loss.

Left untreated, glaucoma can lead to ‘Tunnel Vision’ and total blindness.

The primary way to slow the progression of glaucoma is by lowering IOP or eye pressure with surgery or medications.

The Journal of Glaucoma published a study in 2019 that showed mindfulness meditation may help lower intraocular pressure (IOP) and improve quality of life by lowering stress-related chemicals and hormones.

If you are interested in lowering your eye pressure due to glaucoma the Find an Eye Doctor directory lists eye doctors near you that are experienced in treating glaucoma and discuss how  meditation can be part of your treatment option.

Why would meditation help?

Many glaucoma patients have increased depression and anxiety due to the stress of potentially losing their sight. When the body is under stress, it produces certain chemicals and hormones to help combat the stress.

What did the study show?

The Journal of Glaucoma study divided 90 patients with primary open angle glaucoma into two groups.

  • One group practiced mindfulness meditation for 21 days for 60 minutes under the supervision of a certified meditation teacher.
  • The control group did not.

It is important to know that both groups continued taking their prescription eye drops to lower their IOP throughout the study.

Before and after the study, patients IOP and blood levels of stress biomarkers were measured. A questionnaire ranking quality of life was also given to the patients.

The results were astonishing. After only three weeks, the meditators had significantly lower IOP as compared with those who didn’t meditate.

Results of the meditators v control group showed;

  • 75 percent had more than a 25 percent drop in eye pressure
  • a significant improved quality of life score
  • a statistically considerable drop in stress biomarkers

This study suggests that mediation (along with medical/surgical treatments) play a significant role in treating glaucoma.

What is mindfulness meditation?

Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which one focuses on being intensely aware of what you’re feeling and sensing in the moment, without judgment or interpretation.

Practicing mindfulness involves specific breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the mind and body to help reduce stress.

Researchers have found that after a short course of mindfulness meditation it reduces intraocular pressure (IOP) was reduced. Blood levels of stress biomarkers were also lowered and participants’ self-reported quality of life scores increased.

Patients who manage their stress better tend to have better outcomes. 

The amount of evidence on the beneficial effects of meditation on stress reduction makes it worth considering as one more tool for treating glaucoma.

If you think mindfulness meditation will help reduce stress and eye pressure due to glaucoma, contact an eye doctor near you to learn more about meditation as a treatment option for your glaucoma.