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More About How The Nostrils Influence Eye Pressure

Submitted by dave on Tue, 02/06/2007 - 1:28pm

I received some nice feedback about yesterday's blog article on how nasal conditions affect eye pressure. Thank you for your emails (and I would appreciate it if more readers will leave comments on my blog too).

Yesterday's article was inspired primarily by a scientific research article and personal communication to me from people on that research team. In today's article I will mention some of my personal experiences that I didn't include in yesterday's article.  I also want to continue this topic because it is a bit counter-intuitive to think connections like this could exist. "How could nasal congestion affect eye pressure?!," is a legitimate question.

I have a friend who can measure her eye pressure accurately at home and she has been very observant in noting  when one nostril or the other has been congested. I believe she independently noticed the connection with her eye pressure. She has recorded it several times in her eye pressure records.

I wasn't quite as observant and I only became aware of the connection after reading the research cited in yesterday's blog article. Once I read the research, I noted the effect several times over the last few months. However, until now I had never explicitly tested it.

On Sunday, the day before I wrote Nasal-Conditions-Affect-Eye-Pressure, I tested right-nostril only breathing by manually holding my left nostril closed with my finger. I breathed like this for 10 minutes while I was doing easy reading on the computer. (Easy reading on the computer doesn’t affect my eye pressure at all.) After 10 minutes my eye pressure went from 16 to 22 in my left eye. Notice that I closed my left nostril and my left IOP went way up. This is the normal expectation. If I had closed my right nostril, my right IOP would have increased.

Next I went back to normal breathing but I didn’t change activities. After twenty minutes my IOP returned to the baseline (16 mm Hg) and then in anther 15 minutes it was slightly below the baseline at 14 mm Hg. Notice how dramatic the IOP change was. My eye pressure went from 16 to 22 to 16 to 14 all within 45 minutes and all by simply breathing through my right nostril only. Isn’t that surprising?!  (During this entire test I remained seated in the same position and no other factors changed.)

There is a physiologic basis for this effect, as explained in the research study I cited yesterday. The nasal breathing influence on IOP is an effect that occurs via known hormonal and nervous system responses and it would be expected to occur in most people. However, as the study points out, not all people respond exactly the same.

I think the most important info came from the physician’s email to me where he said “the lead ophthalmologist in our study routinely has his glaucoma patients checked for nasal septal deviation. Sometimes surgical correction solves the glaucoma problem.”

To me, that's big news!

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