Newswise — Magdeburg, Germany and New Delhi, India, November 5, 2018 – A new era in the management of glaucoma is ushered in by a landmark study published in the Journal of Glaucoma, Official Journal of the World Glaucoma Association. Patients with primary open angle glaucoma (POAG) showed significant improvements of both ocular and general health after participating in a program of mindful meditation focused on breathing compared to the control group that did not partake. 

“We know that chronic stress can lead to elevation of blood pressure (systemic hypertension) but seldom think about its known effect on the eye by provoking a high intraocular pressure (IOP). This is the first study showing that a relaxation program with meditation can lower IOP in glaucoma patients and improve their quality of life by lowering stress hormones like cortisol. Mindful meditation is easy to do, even by patients who are elderly and bedridden,” said the study’s lead investigator Tanuj Dada, MD, from the Dr. Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India. 

Co-investigator, Bernhard Sabel, PhD, from the Institute of Medical Psychology, Otto-.v.-Guericke University of Magdeburg, Germany, added, “The study suggests that mental stress may be one of the main causal factors for glaucoma, and using this ancient meditation technique to reduce stress is a powerful tool to treat the patient as a whole and not just the eye, a holistic approach to manage the disease and also improve overall patient well-being.” 

The scientists randomly divided 90 POAG patients (all of whom were being treated with eye drops before and during the study) into two groups. One group underwent a three-week program of meditation and breathing exercises with a trained yoga instructor for 60 minutes every morning while continuing taking their eye drops. The second group also continued taking the eye drops but did not meditate. At the end of three weeks, 75% of the patients who practiced meditation demonstrated a significant 25% drop in eye pressure, which was not observed in the control group. Additionally, meditation positively influenced other indicators, such as reduced cortisol levels (stress hormone), increases in beta-endorphins and brain-derived neurotrophic factors and reduced oxidative stress and pro-inflammatory markers (interleukins). 

Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness globally, affecting nearly 70 million people. Lowering of IOP is the only proven therapy, which is currently achieved with eye drops, laser therapy 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. Patients’ outcomes improve as IOP is reduced, which helps to prevent further damage to the optic nerve. By employing a meditation approach, there is a reduced need for medications, which helps reduce side effects and also costs to the patient and the healthcare system. In addition, meditation reduces stress hormones, which improves patients’ quality of life. It thus helps patients cope much more successfully with the psychological burden caused by this blinding disorder.

“Our findings open an exciting avenue of harnessing the power of the brain to cure ailments of the human body. A majority of human diseases have an underlying psychological component, and it is the psychology of the patient that meditation targets. Reducing stress hormone levels with evidence-based methods can impact many organs in the body, including the eyes. More research is now needed to explore the exciting prospect of whether meditation can also serve to reduce or stop the progression of vision loss or even achieve vision restoration,” explained study co-author Muneeb Faiq, PhD, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India. 

Although yoga and meditation, key elements for holistic health, have been practiced for more than 5,000-years in ancient India, they are not well known to modern doctors and currently not used in medical practice. Most people identify yoga with physical postures and exercises, although the most benefit comes from breathing exercises and meditation that reduce stress hormone release by relaxation and thus harmonize the “mind-body” relationship.   

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“Mindfulness Meditation Reduces Intraocular Pressure and Lowers Stress Biomarkers in Glaucoma: A Randomized Trial,” by Tanuj Dada, Deepti Mittal, Kuldeep Mohanty, Muneeb A. Faiq, Muzaffer A. Bhat, Raj K. Yadav, Ramanjit Sihota, Talvir Sidhu, Thirumurthy Velpandian, Mani Kalaivani, Ravindra M. Pandey, Ying Gao, Bernhard A. Sabel, and Rima Dada Journal of Glaucoma, DOI: 10.1097/IJG.0000000000001088, published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. 

The study was conducted at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi and funded by Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India. 

For further information contact Prof. Tanuj Dada , MD, Dr Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences, All India Institute of Medical Sciences at [email protected], or Prof. Bernhard Sabel, PhD, Director of the Institute of Medical Psychology at Magdeburg University, Germany, a co-investigator of the study, at +49-391-672 1800 or [email protected]


Dr. Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences (RPC), All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi named after the first President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, was established on the 10th of March, 1967 as a national center for excellence in ophthalmic science, to provide state-of-the-art patient care, expand human resources for medical education and undertake research to find solutions to eye health problems of national importance. It is currently the top ophthalmic center of India for training and research with over 250 research publications annually and provides state-of-the-art clinical care at highly subsidized rates to the entire community and free of charge to the population below the poverty line. It caters to 0.4 million patients annually in out-patient services and 0.6 million in specialty ophthalmic clinics with over 40,000 ophthalmic surgeries being done every year.


IMP is a research and teaching institution at the medical faculty of the Otto-v.-Guericke University of Magdeburg, Germany. For more than 25 years, it has been a world-leading center for brain plasticity, vision restoration research and technology and is a source of information and innovation in low vision and blindness of patients suffering from glaucoma and optic nerve damage. It is led by Prof. B. Sabel, Director, a noted expert in visual rehabilitation.