A study in Brazil recently demonstrated that healthy individuals may experience a significant IOP elevation after an acute psychological stress event, such as public speaking. The researchers suggest promoting anti-stress strategies in these individuals may play a part in reducing the risk for the development or progression of glaucoma.

The study included 28 patients, 17 of whom underwent the Trier Social Stress Test, which evaluated cortisol response to the stress from public speaking. All participants underwent testing one week prior for baseline measurements.

The researchers noted salivary cortisol (6.8nmol/L) and heart rate (7.2bpm) increased significantly after the social stress test. The test group also showed a mean IOP increase of of 1.0mm Hg and 1.1mm Hg (right and left eyes, respectively) compared with baseline. Also, 35% of the subjects in the stress test group showed an IOP increase higher than 2mm Hg following the test, compared with 18% in the control group taken at a similar time point. The control group did not show significant changes in IOP, heart rate and salivary cortisol levels.

While the researchers note that further research will need to establish causality between glaucoma and anxiety/depression disorders as well as validate anti-stress methods as useful therapies, they propose the importance of investigating the relationship between IOP and psychophysiological stress.

Abe RY, Silva TC, Dantas I, et al. Can psychological stress elevate intraocular pressure in healthy individuals? Ophthalmol Glaucoma. July 3, 2020. [Epub ahead of print].