Meditation can help lower eye pressure in glaucoma sufferers, according to an Indian study claiming to have revealed the most comprehensive link between the two.
The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and Integral Health Clinic study was recently published in the Journal of Glaucoma – the official journal of The World Glaucoma Association.
The condition is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in India, affecting more than 12 million people. Lowering intraocular pressure (IOP) is the only proven therapy through eye drops, laser therapy or surgery, but for many Indians these can be costly and cause side effects.
The study involved 90 glaucoma patients who were randomly divided into two groups, according to the Times of India.
While continuing to take glaucoma medication, one group performed meditation and breathing exercises (pranayama) for an hour each morning for 21 days under a trained yoga instructor. The second group continued their medication schedule without meditation.
After three weeks the researchers tested the meditation group and discovered a significant reduction in intraocular pressure, with mean pressure falling from 19 mmHg to 13 mmHg (25% IOP reduction seen in 75% patients).
There were also changes in gene expression that positively affected health of the retinal ganglion cells and optic nerve, which would potentially protect the eye from future damage and blindness.
“This is the first study in the world which offers robust scientific evidence for lowering of eye pressure with meditation by targeting the brain and improving both the eye condition as well as general health of the patients,” AIIMS Department of Physiology professor-in-charge of Integral Health Clinic Dr Raj Kumar Yadav said.
Researchers found the patients who underwent meditation therapy also had major changes in stress hormones, seeing a decrease in cortisol and increase in beta-endorphins, leading to an improvement in wellbeing.
“We know that glaucoma patients have high levels of anxiety and stress as they suffer from a potentially blinding disorder. We also are aware of the fact that stress leads to elevation of blood pressure but seldom think about its impact on eye pressure,” Yadav said.
The researchers said this technique of meditation could be easily learnt and practised by all glaucoma sufferers, including elderly and bed-ridden patients, and can significantly alleviate the suffering of glaucoma patients and reduce the need for medicine.
However, they stressed “patients must not stop using glaucoma medications and must regularly follow up and get their eye check-up done at least once a year by a qualified eye specialist.”
Subscribe to Glaucoma eNews