Preventing Vision Loss: Can Meditation Help?

In late 2023, a groundbreaking study published in the British Journal of Visual Impairment reaffirmed what previous research had only hinted at — meditation holds significant promise in benefiting patients at risk of vision loss. In particular, the study highlighted meditation’s potential to reduce intraocular pressure (IOP) in glaucoma patients and modulate key biomarkers such as cortisol and reactive oxygen species.

The findings from this recent research demonstrated more than just statistical improvements. Notably, there were substantial increases in beta-endorphins, contributing to the growing body of evidence supporting the positive impact of meditation on mood and stress. The study also reported non-significant decreases in inflammatory markers, including interleukin-6 levels, and increases in brain-derived neurotrophic factors, thereby underlining the multifaceted benefits of meditation for vision loss patients.

While these findings might seem revolutionary, they build upon a foundation of earlier studies that have consistently suggested a positive link between meditation and ocular health. Below, we take a closer look at this relationship.

Understanding vision loss

Vision loss is a significant concern affecting millions worldwide. This manifests through various conditions such as cataracts, which cloud the eye’s natural lens, or glaucoma, which exerts pressure on the optic nerve. Otherwise, there’s also age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition characterized by retinal deterioration.

Traditionally, corrective eyewear has been the first defense against vision impairment. For instance, individuals with AMD often benefit from specialty glasses like prismatic lenses to correct central vision loss. However, in early-stage AMD where vision loss has yet to occur, protective eyewear, like polycarbonate lenses or sunglasses, may be recommended to prevent additional eye trauma instead. By blocking 100% of UVA and UVB rays, sunglasses with a UV 400 coating can even prevent cataracts and cancer. If such coatings are added onto prescription lenses, then people who need vision correction gain access to a variety of frames from top brands, from Oakley’s Centerboard-53 to Arden’s Birch, to enhance visual comfort and reduce eye strain.

Alongside corrective eyewear, lifestyle changes are conventional methods for safeguarding vision. Adopting healthy screen habits such as the 20-20-20 rule is beneficial in the digital age, while a balanced diet rich in nutrients like vitamins A, C, and E, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids supports overall eye health. These time-tested methods form the cornerstone of vision preservation.

Meditation as a novel approach

Beyond traditional corrective measures, emerging strategies, particularly meditation, are also gaining recognition for their role in preventing vision loss. Experienced meditation practitioner Oswaldo Grillet explains that the ancient techniques of yoga and meditation aren’t superficial — they are a ‘scientific, mystical path’ to heal the body. Diagnosed with retinal detachment, Grillet explains how the acute visual impairment is linked to the nervous system and exacerbated by stress. Yoga and meditation are thus key to managing his condition.

As we’ve explained in our previous article, however, yoga doesn’t only relieve stress. Yoga for the eyes, when done right, can strengthen eye muscles, enhance blood circulation to the eyes, alleviate eye strain, and improve focus and concentration. Practices like Palming and Trataka, known for their simplicity, have demonstrated efficacy in addressing vision-related concerns.

That is how mindfulness meditation can result in a significant decrease in IOP and changes in trabecular meshwork (TM) gene expression, as found in a 2021 study published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, or even improve distant visual acuity, relieve ocular symptoms, and ameliorate diopter, as posited by a 2022 study outlined in Trials. These collectively suggest that meditation demonstrates tangible benefits in enhancing ocular health, making meditation a compelling and accessible adjunct to traditional preventive measures.

As we delve deeper into understanding the intricate relationship between meditation and vision, these findings invite a paradigm shift in how we approach and prioritize the well-being of our eyes. While corrective eyewear remains a foundation for preventing vision loss, the incorporation of meditation into preventive strategies adds a holistic dimension, potentially revolutionizing the way we safeguard our vision in the years to come.

Featured Photo by Los Muertos Crew