Improve Glaucoma with Meditation

Improve Glaucoma with Meditation


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“a relaxation program with meditation can lower IOP (intraocular pressure) in glaucoma patients and improve their quality of life by lowering stress hormones like cortisol.” – Tanuj Dada


Glaucoma is a disease of the eye that is the leading cause of blindness in people over 60 years of age, although it can occur at younger ages. It affects over 65 million people worldwide and over 3 million Americans. It involves an abnormally high pressure in the eye that if untreated produces permanent damage to the retina and the optic nerve. It often occurs without other symptoms and can only be detected with measurement of intraocular pressure. Treatments are designed to prevent further damage by lowering intraocular pressure and may involve eyedrops, drugs, laser treatment or surgery. “These therapies are costly and have ocular and systemic side effects that can adversely affect the health-related quality of life of glaucoma patients.”


Mindfulness training is known to be able to lower blood pressure. So, it is possible that meditation practice may be useful in the treatment of glaucoma. In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness Meditation Reduces Intraocular Pressure, Lowers Stress Biomarkers and Modulates Gene Expression in Glaucoma: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at:, Dada and colleagues recruited patients with open-angle Glaucoma who were being treated with prescription eye drops and randomly assigned them to either receive a 3 week, once a day for 60 minutes, program of meditation and yogic breathing exercises or to a wait-list control condition. They were measured before and after treatment for intraocular pressure, quality of life, stress-related serum biomarkers [cortisol, β-endorphins, IL6, TNF-α, brain-derived neurotrophic factor, reactive oxygen species, total antioxidant capacity], and whole genome expression.


They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list control that the Glaucoma patients who meditated had significantly lower intraocular pressure and stress-related serum biomarkers and significantly improved quality of life.  Additionally, meditation significantly reduced the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol levels and increased the levels of beta-endorphins and brain-derived neurotrophic factors and reduced the levels of the pro-inflammatory markers, interleukins. In addition, the greater the decrease in intraocular pressure the greater the improvements in quality of life and the stress-related serum biomarkers. These changes correlated well with gene expression profiling.


These are exciting results that suggest that meditation may be a safe and effective treatment for Glaucoma. The reduction in intraocular pressure may reduce further damage to the optic nerve and help to preserve the remaining vision of the patients. Further the reduction in stress hormones and inflammation suggests an overall improvement in the patient’s health.


Meditation appears to produce these benefits by reducing the physiological responses to stress. This makes sense as stress has been shown to be highly related to the development of Glaucoma and mindfulness practices are well known to reduce the physiological and psychological responses to stress. The authors speculate that the relaxation produced by meditation and yogic breathing exercises is responsible for the benefits. Regardless of the mechanism, the findings indicate that meditation practice may be a treatment to slow further visual degeneration and improve the lives of Glaucoma sufferers,


So, improve glaucoma with meditation.


“When scientists asked 45 glaucoma patients to try mindfulness meditation for an hour a day for three weeks they discovered that the pressure in their eyes lowered by 25 per cent  compared to patients who stuck to eye drops.” Sarah Knapton


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Dada, Tanuj, Mittal, Deepti, Mohanty, Kuldeep, Faiq, Muneeb A., Bhat, Muzaffer A., Yadav, Raj K., Sihota, Ramanjit, Sidhu, Talvir, Velpandian, Thirumurthy, Kalaivani, Mani, Pandey, Ravindra M., Gao, Ying, Sabel, Bernhard A., Dada, Rima. Mindfulness Meditation Reduces Intraocular Pressure, Lowers Stress Biomarkers and Modulates Gene Expression in Glaucoma: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Glaucoma: December 2018 – Volume 27 – Issue 12 – p 1061–1067. doi: 10.1097/IJG.0000000000001088


Background: Reducing intraocular pressure (IOP) in primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) is currently the only approach to prevent further optic nerve head damage. However, other mechanisms such as ischemia, oxidative stress, glutamate excitotoxicity, neurotrophin loss, inflammation/glial activation, and vascular dysregulation are not addressed. Because stress is a key risk factor affecting these mechanisms, we evaluated whether mindfulness-based stress reduction can lower IOP and normalize typical stress biomarkers.

Materials and Methods: In a prospective, randomized trial 90 POAG patients (180 eyes; age above 45 y) were assigned to a waitlist control or mindfulness meditation group which practiced daily for 21 days. We measured IOP (primary endpoint), quality of life (QOL), stress-related serum biomarkers [cortisol, β-endorphins, IL6, TNF-α, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), reactive oxygen species (ROS), total antioxidant capacity (TAC)], and whole genome expression.

Results: Between-group comparisons revealed significantly lowered IOP in meditators (OD: 18.8 to 12.7, OS 19.0 to 13.1 mm Hg) which correlated with significantly lowered stress-biomarker levels including cortisol (497.3 to 392.3 ng/mL), IL6 (2.8 to 1.5 ng/mL), TNF-α (57.1 to 45.4 pg/mL), ROS (1625 to 987 RLU/min/104 neutrophils), and elevated β-endorphins (38.4 to 52.7 pg/mL), BDNF (56.1 to 83.9 ng/mL), and TAC (5.9 to 9.3) (all P<0.001). These changes correlated well with gene expression profiling. Meditators improved in QOL (P<0.05).

Conclusions: A short course of mindfulness-based stress reduction by meditation in POAG, reduces IOP, improves QOL, normalizes stress biomarkers, and positively modifies gene expression. Mindfulness meditation can be recommended as adjunctive therapy for POAG.