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Downward Dog Don'ts for People Who Have Glaucoma

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People who have glaucoma may unknowingly be increasing pressure in their eyes when they perform certain yoga moves, say researchers at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary at Mount Sinai.

In a small study published online in PLoS One, the intraocular eye pressure of 10 yoga practitioners who had glaucoma (average age 62) rose significantly within one minute of their performing four head-down positions. Within 10 minutes of sitting up after the pose, eye pressure dropped to each individual’s normal, or baseline, level. Elevated intraocular pressure—when fluid pressure inside the eye increases—is the most common cause of glaucoma and its progression. Experiencing some intraocular pressure during head-down yoga positions is normal; the 20 people without glaucoma (average age, 36) in the study’s control group also had intraocular pressure that was temporarily elevated. The poses that raised intraocular pressure the highest were the downward-facing dog and the standard forward bend. Two other positions—the plow pose and the legs-up-the-wall pose—raised pressure to a lesser degree.

The study authors couldn’t conclusively say that inverted yoga positions worsened glaucoma. But they say their findings pave the way for future studies to determine whether yoga poses are a long-term risk for glaucoma patients. Some past studies have shown similar effects with other exercises, such as pushups, leading some experts to recommend that glaucoma patients avoid activities during which the head is facing down or below the heart. Lifting heavy weights can elevate intraocular pressure, too, which is often caused by holding your breath as you lift. Consider using lighter weights with more repetitions instead, and remember to breathe out during the exertion portion of the exercise.

On the other hand, aerobic exercise, such as bicycling or fast walking, has been shown to improve blood flow to the brain and decrease eye pressure in healthy subjects. Until additional clinical data become available, you may want to ask your doctor whether your activities are safe if you have glaucoma.


Posted in Vision on March 30, 2016

Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Health After 50 Disclaimer

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