A recent study has demonstrated a close association between mental stress and glaucomatous neurodegeneration. Researchers have also shown that mindful-based stress reduction can lower intraocular pressure (IOP), normalize stress biomarkers and modifiy gene expression positively in individuals with primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG).

A prospective randomized trial assigned 90 POAG patients (180 eyes) older than 45 years old to either a waitlist control or a mindfulness meditation group that practiced daily for three weeks. The study found significantly lowered IOP in meditators—notching a drop of roughly 6mm Hg on average—which correlated with significantly lowered levels of stress-biomarkers such as cortisol and elevated ß-endorphins. IOP was reduced by more than 25% in 75% of meditation participants. The researchers recorded the last measurement five hours after the last meditation session of the day.  

The team proposes that IOP normalization, stress and quality of life are tightly related. They suggest that mental stress appears to play a fundamental role in POAG and that stress is associated with aggravation of most of glaucoma’s related pathogenic factors. The study concludes with a call for more research aimed at exploring stress as a causal factor in the condition, addressing if IOP changes are long-lasting and evaluating whether or not meditation helps preserve visual field function in the long run.

Dada T, Mittal D, Mohanty K, et al. Mindfulness meditation reduces intraocular pressure, lowers stress biomarkers and modulates gene expression in glaucoma: a randomized controlled trial. J Glaucoma. September 25, 2018. [Epub ahead of print].