Can Exercise Help Control Your Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness and it isn't curable. However, it is treatable. While conventional treatments include medication and surgery, there are indications that exercise can also be used to control the disease in some people. Here's what you should know.

What Type of Glaucoma Can Be Helped by Exercise?

Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of the disease. It occurs when the eye's intraocular pressure (IOP) increases, reducing blood flow to the eye and damaging the optic nerve. Once the damage is done, it is generally irreversible, which is why it's so important to keep the IOP under control as much as possible.

This is the type of glaucoma that can be helped through exercise. The goal is to reduce the IOP, thus keeping the cells in the eyes from dying off due to blood loss.

What Types of Exercise Will Reduce the Symptoms of Glaucoma?

Studies indicate that regular aerobic exercise is the best when it comes to lowering your intraocular pressure. Aerobic exercise should last for at least 20–30 minutes at a time and be done at least 3 times a week in order to be effective. Many different types of aerobic exercise can be effective:

  • bicycling
  • brisk walking
  • jogging
  • swimming
  • stair climbing
  • dancing

What Types of Exercise Should the Glaucoma Patient Avoid?

Studies also indicate, however, that people with elevated IOP levels want to avoid types of exercise that can cause them to inhale and hold their breath, such as weightlifting. That action can actually raise your IOP levels, increasing your problems.

Yoga is another form of exercise that should be avoided by glaucoma patients, principally because many of the positions require head-down postures. Those particular movements have been shown to increase IOP levels and increase symptoms.

In What Other Ways Can Exercise Help Benefit Glaucoma Patients?

An additional benefit of regular exercise is that it can eventually help lower both your blood insulin levels and your risk of diabetes, which can contribute to raised IOP levels.

While the exact relationship between diabetes and open-angle glaucoma isn't exactly known, studies indicate that people with either one of these conditions have a strong likelihood of developing the other disease. 

Medication and surgery are still the primary treatments for glaucoma and shouldn't be abandoned in favor of alternative methods. However, don't discount the value of a regular exercise program when it comes to controlling your disease.