Glaucoma is a group of diseases characterised by damage to optic nerve and visual field defects. Optic nerve is the nerve which conveys visual information from the eye to the brain where the image formed in the eye is actually perceived. Visual field is the whole area which the eye sees.
The most important factor to cause glaucoma and also the most important modifiable factor is the eye pressure (intraocular pressure). Higher pressures tend to cause more damage.
Apart from the medical treatment with medication and surgery, there are some factors which are lesser known but very important for the management of glaucoma. Dr. Robert Ritch, MD, Professor of Ophthalmology (New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai) explains which activities, which may in normal circumstances be considered harmless, could potentially further damage the optic nerve and eyesight:
Practicing certain yoga positions. … common head-down yoga positions: downward-facing dog, standing forward bend, plow, and legs up the wall. … greatest increase occurring during downward dog.
Undergoing lengthy surgery in an inverted position. … can cause high IOP and visual-field damage when patients are positioned with their head lower than their heart for several hours.
Attempting to exhale against closed airways. Glaucoma patients should avoid … pushups, heavy weight lifting, or straining on the toilet.
Taking blood pressure medication at night. Everybody’s blood pressure dips during sleep, but taking blood pressure medication before bedtime may cause glaucoma patients’ to over-dip, and should be avoided.
Letting sleep apnea go untreated. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition in which breathing stops periodically during sleep due to blocked airways, is a risk factor for normal-tension glaucoma.
Sleeping on one side. If you have glaucoma, avoid habitually sleeping on one side with your eye pressed into a pillow or resting against your hand.
The above advice by Dr. Robert Ritch is valuable in the management of glaucoma, especially in those cases in which the disease is progressive in spite of the best treatment.