Study Shows Meditation Helps Lower IOP

■ Patients with primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) showed significant improvements of both ocular and general health after participating in a program of mindful meditation focused on breathing compared to the control group that did not partake. The study was recently reported in the Journal of Glaucoma.

“We know that chronic stress can lead to elevation of blood pressure but seldom think about its known effect on the eye by provoking a high IOP. This is the first study showing that a relaxation program with meditation can lower IOP in glaucoma patients and improve their quality of life by lowering stress hormones like cortisol. Mindful meditation is easy to do, even [for] patients who are elderly and bedridden,” said the study’s lead investigator Tanuj Dada, MD, from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, India.

Co-investigator, Bernhard Sabel, PhD, from the Institute of Medical Psychology, Otto Guericke University of Magdeburg, Germany, added, “Using this ancient meditation technique to reduce stress is a powerful tool to treat the patient as a whole and not just the eye, a holistic approach to manage the disease and also improve overall patient well-being.”

The scientists randomly divided 90 POAG patients (all of whom were being treated with eye drops before and during the study) into 2 groups. One group underwent a 3-week program of meditation and breathing exercises with a trained yoga instructor for 60 minutes every morning while continuing taking their eye drops. The second group also continued taking the eye drops but did not meditate. At the end of 3 weeks, 75% of the patients who practiced meditation demonstrated a significant 25% drop in eye pressure, which was not observed in the control group. Additionally, meditation positively influenced other indicators, such as reduced cortisol levels (stress hormone), increases in beta-endorphins and brain-derived neurotrophic factors, and reduced oxidative stress and proinflammatory markers.