Can Certain Activities Make Glaucoma Worse?

Posted on Tuesday, July 24th, 2018 by Dr. Binoy Jani

Exercises to Avoid with Glaucoma

One of the toughest parts of being diagnosed with a disease like glaucoma is feeling like you have no control over the condition. At Vista Eye Specialists, many of our glaucoma patients assume there is nothing they can do for the disease besides take medications for life or undergo surgery.

On the contrary — if you have been diagnosed with glaucoma, there are certain activities that can affect the disease, for better or for worse.

Yoga and Exercise

Any type of activity that positions your head lower than your heart for prolonged periods of time should be avoided, as it could lead to a spike in intraocular pressure. This includes inverted yoga positions (and headstands) or using inversion tables.

Something else to be careful of is any activity during which you are likely to hold your breath and exert yourself, such as lifting heavy weights or playing a high-resistance wind instrument like an oboe or trumpet. Holding your breath and straining is known as the Valsalva maneuver and it could cause intraocular pressure to rise.

Not all exercise is bad for glaucoma. In fact, some studies suggest that aerobic exercise may help lower your intraocular pressure. This includes walking, jogging, swimming or using a stationary machine at the gym. You could also lift lighter weights and do more repetitions.


A commonly discussed treatment alternative for glaucoma is smoking marijuana; however, Vista Eye Specialists does not endorse this option (neither does the American Glaucoma Society nor the American Academy of Ophthalmology).

Although marijuana does lower intraocular pressure temporarily, it has a very short duration of action. You would have to smoke it every few hours to keep intraocular pressure low and steady. Obviously, this is not practical. Not to mention, there are other deleterious effects of marijuana use.

Determining What Is Right for Your Health

Talk to your ophthalmologist and your primary care physician about what you should be doing, exercise and lifestyle-wise, for your ocular and overall health. Your doctors can make recommendations that are targeted toward your current health and lifestyle.

Keep in mind that lifestyle habits alone cannot stop the progression of glaucoma. It is critical to see your ophthalmologist regularly for eye exams and take your medications as prescribed. Certain laser or surgical procedures can also help to manage glaucoma. But it does not hurt to modify your lifestyle habits, especially if that includes getting more exercise and avoiding smoking!

To speak with Vista Eye Specialists about the treatment and management of glaucoma, please call 1-888-EYE-JANI (393-5264) or email us today.