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Effects of Exercise on Intraocular Pressure and Ocular Blood Flow: A Review

Risner, David BA; Ehrlich, Rita MD; Kheradiya, Nisha S. BS; Siesky, Brent PhD; McCranor, Lynne BS (Equiv); Harris, Alon PhD

doi: 10.1097/IJG.0b013e31818fa5f3
Hypothesis and Innovation
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Glaucoma is a disease characterized by progressive optic neuropathy resulting in retinal ganglion cell death, which affects approximately 68 million people worldwide. Risk factors include intraocular pressure (IOP), genetics, race, age, and vascular factors. Exercise is known to affect IOP and systemic cardiovascular factors and, therefore, may affect glaucoma pathophysiology. This review discusses the results of articles relevant to glaucoma, IOP, ocular blood flow (OBF), and exercise. Isometric and dynamic exercises have been studied with respect to effects on IOP and OBF. Isometric exercise results in an acute decrease in IOP, which correlates with hypocapnia. Dynamic exercise results in a more pronounced but also short duration decrease in IOP. Physical fitness is associated with lower baseline IOP but diminished acute IOP-lowering response to exercise. Upon cessation of exercise, values return to pretrained levels within 1 month. In glaucoma patients, these IOP-lowering effects are greater than in healthy subjects. In healthy subjects, OBF is unchanged during exercise due to vascular autoregulation. This autoregulation fails at ocular perfusion pressures greater than 70% above baseline. In conclusion exercise in glaucoma patients results in acutely lowered IOP and lower baseline IOP. The effects of exercise on the prevention of glaucoma and glaucomatous progression remain unknown. The role of exercise in glaucoma management should be investigated.

Department of Ophthalmology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN

Sources of funding: an unrestricted grant from Research to Prevent Blindness Inc.

Reprints: Alon Harris, PhD, MS, Lois Letzter Professor of Ophthalmology, Professor of Cellular and Integrative Physiology, Department of Ophthalmology, 702 Rotary Circle, Room 137, Indianapolis, IN 46202 (e-mail: alharris@indiana.edu).

Received for publication February 27, 2008; accepted September 27, 2008

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.