At your eye exam, your doctor tells you that there is a buildup of pressure in your eyes—the only treatable risk factor for glaucoma. Unless the pressure is relieved, typically with drugs and/or surgery, you could lose your vision. So you get a prescription for eyedrops, which you will use for the rest of your life.
But there is another risk factor that your eye doctor may not mention—stress. Chronic stress bathes your body in the hormone cortisol, which raises pressure in your eyes. Controlling your stress may help you control that pressure—and help prevent glaucoma.
Stress is an underappreciated contributor to a wide range of eye conditions including optic neuropathy—damage to the optic nerve from, for example, diabetes. Stress even may play a role in myopia (nearsightedness). How? Stress-induced spasms of the tiny muscles in the eye can alter the thickness of the lens.
Research shows that stress reduction not only can prevent the onset of some eye diseases in susceptible people but also reduce the severity of the diseases, improve response to treatment and lead to better outcomes.
So how do you treat stress that could steal your vision? Same as you should any stress—meditation and mindfulness-based stress-reduction techniques, proper diet and good sleep. At a minimum, reducing stress helps you manage an eye condition after it’s diagnosed—but it also may help you avoid one in the first place.