If you want to know which exercises to avoid with glaucoma, you have come to the right place. For glaucoma patients and glaucoma suspects, there are some forms of exercises which could potentially damage the optic nerve and worsen the glaucoma. The term glaucoma suspect describes a person with one or more risk factors that may lead to glaucoma, such as an eye pressure problem, but has no recognizable optic nerve damage or visual field loss.
If you are a glaucoma suspect, your ophthalmologist will monitor you regularly for any sign of an eye pressure problem and will work with you to try to keep your intraocular pressure within a normal range. Part of this is determining what is a normal eye pressure for you. This entails assessing your intraocular pressure at different times of the day and on different days. This will enable your ophthalmologist to develop a profile that can be used to evaluate if you are developing an eye pressure problem in future visits.
If you are a person that practices yoga and some other strenuous exercises, you should be careful with which type of exercises you should avoid. It is recommended that you avoid inverted yoga poses and to limit those yoga poses and postures that cause your head to be below your heart. You will have to make changes in your regular yoga practice routines.
The list below identifies some things that are known to cause high intraocular pressure that is transient (it comes and goes). Following are some activities and exercises to avoid with glaucoma:
1. Lifting heavy weights
3. Bending over in any position which brings down the head below the heart
4. Straining during defecation
5. Playing a brass or woodwind musical instrument
6. Wearing constrictive clothing around the neck (e.g. a neck tie)
7. Various acrobatic or gymnastic maneuvers
8. Certain yoga positions
Scientists have studied the effect of yoga on intraocular pressure. They observed that some positions of yoga not only increase the intraocular pressure transiently, but because of sustained/prolonged duration of some positions, the damage could be much more serious.
All inverted yoga poses significantly increase intraocular pressure, at least doubling it. Additionally, poses that involve placing the head below the heart also showed increases, ranging from 3.8 to 13.0 mmHg.
The controversial Valsalva maneuver caused the greatest increase in intraocular pressure and in some studies also caused temporary disruptions in visual acuity. Four other yoga poses and postures show minor decreases in intraocular pressure.
In some studies, a decrease by as much as 14% was observed in intraocular pressure after holding yoga poses and postures for 3-4 minutes, as the body adapts to the pose. However, an eye pressure problem still exists.
This level held until the yoga poses and postures were sustained for approximately 12 minutes, when intraocular pressure rose again, in some cases beyond the mark of the original spike.
The high intraocular pressure is a transient phenomenon, meaning that eye pressure returns to normal within 60 seconds of ending yoga poses and postures.
These data suggest that the greatest risk of damage to the optic nerve or visual field for a glaucoma patient or a glaucoma suspect is from practicing inverted yoga poses for sustained periods. Indeed, there are several clinical reports of progressive visual field damage associated with the regular practice of inverted yoga poses.
Although the spikes in high intraocular pressure are much lower for yoga positions in which the head is below the heart, this does not necessarily mean that an eye pressure problem does not exist or that there is less risk associated with these yoga poses and postures.
Again, the most significant risk appears to come when the yoga positions are sustained for long periods through regular practice. For example, performing the halasana (plow pose) for extended periods over successive days still could carry substantial risk for damage in a glaucoma patient or a glaucoma suspect.
The good news is that many yoga positions either have no effect or in some cases even result in minor reductions in intraocular pressure. These can be practiced safely for a glaucoma patient or a glaucoma suspect. You can speak to your ophthalmologist and yoga instructor about modifying yoga poses and postures in your routines so that your eyesight is protected.
Remember, glaucoma is a very serious disease that can lead to blindness. Although being a glaucoma suspect does not necessarily mean that you will develop glaucoma, you have a significantly higher risk than the general population.