Effect of Stress on Our Eyes & Health

stressors such as covid fear trigger the fight or flight responseOur bodies are designed to handle stressful situations, referred to as the “flight or fight” mode, wherein when we need to quickly react, the body goes into action and produces hormones that stimulate the adrenal system, raise cortisol levels, and gets our muscles instantly ready to go. Once that situation is resolved, our body has the remarkable ability to return back to homeostasis or normal balance quickly.

But modern-day life may keep one in flight or fight readiness too often. This may be due to ongoing work pressure, relationship and money issues, or the stress related to COVID-19. Chronic stress can, over time, overwork the adrenal system resulting in fatigue and poor circulation.  In turn, fatigue and poor circulation limit the ability of the body to deliver essential nutrients to the eyes.

The retina and eye are extensions of the brain.1 It is therefore conceivable that “ophthalmologic” diseases may actually also be “brain” diseases in disguise, both of which depend on the vascular system.

The Effect of Stress

Chronic stress can result in hypertension, digestive dysfunction, depression, anxiety, and fear. Chronic stress may be a major cause of visual system diseases such as glaucoma and optic neuropathy,2 dry eye syndrome,3,

as well as aggravate other eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration.4 5

Through most cases of glaucoma are open-angle glaucoma, there are many cases of normal-tension glaucoma where the eye pressure is considered within normal range. Causes or contributing factors can range anywhere from genetic susceptibility, stress sensitization, to a disturbed stress resilience system. For example, patients with primary vascular dysregulation respond more strongly to psychological stress, which in turn is linked to ocular blood flow and damage to the structure of the eye cause normal tension glaucoma.6

Other stress-inducing vision issues include dizziness, eye strain, sensitivity to light, eye floaters and eye spasms.

What Can We Do?

We feel that management of stress, and how we react to stressful situations as well as complementary nutritional support can work together to protect vision.

An underlying assumption is that stress management can help activate residual vision and restoration.7 8 9

Though we cannot always control external forces that cause stress, we can have a measure of control over how it affects us on a daily basis by employing the following techniques.

  1. Keep breathing. When you find yourself feeling stress, take a minute and take long, slow breaths.
  2. Eat a healthy diet. Avoid sugar, refined carbohydrates, diet sodas and all artificial sweeteners (stevia is fine), stick with healthy oils and avoid fried food and vegetable oils unless unrefined; do not cook with vegetable oils at high temperatures. Eat plenty of leafy greens and other vegetables and fruits, particularly berries, preferably organic if possible.
  3. Exercise regularly and take a walk when you feel stressed.
  4. Take breaks when possible to meditate, take yoga or Qi Gong class, walks in the wood, etc., particularly when feeling stressed.
  5. Nourish healthy relationships with friends and family, and avoid unhealthy ones when possible.
  6. Wake and go to sleep with a positive image or a positive affirmation
  7. Get plenty of sleep.  Turn off the computer and phone at least an hour before bed.
  8. Take good supplements for the eyes and body as we cannot always eat the way we need to.

Recommended Supplements

Advanced Eye and Vision Support Formula.  This basic formulation supports vision health by providing essential nutrients.

Retinal Support Formula targets retina support from a Chinese medical perspective.

Omegagenics Fish Oil provides ample omega-3 essential fatty acids to support eye, heart and brain health, and helps reduce stress (especially important for seniors).

Books for More Information

Natural Eye Care: Your Guide to Healthy Vision and Healing, available as paperback or e-book.  This is our comprehensive 800 page guide for the everyday user who wants to support vision health, as well as for health care professionals looking for a holistic approach for vision care and its relationship to overall health.

Natural Parkinson’s Support: Your Guide to Preventing and Managing Parkinson’s, available as paperback.  Michael Edson writes about ways to help promote brain health and reduce the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s naturally.

Natural Brain Support: Preventing and Treating Alzheimer’s and Dementia Naturally (you can pre-order now, estimated ship date Feb. 15th).  Michael Edson’s 400 page new book discusses brain disorders and their many possible causative factors, ways to prevent and reduce beta amyloid and tao protein build-up associated with Alzheimer’s, essential nutrients, Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, essential oils and nutrients that when deficient, can mimic symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia, and much more.

  1. Faiq MA, Dada R, Kumar A, Saluja D, Dada T. (2016). Brain: The Potential Diagnostic and Therapeutic Target for Glaucoma.  CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2016; 15(7):839-44.
  2. Sabel BA, Wang J, Cardenas-Morales L, Faiq M, Heim C. (2018). Mental stress as consequence and cause of vision loss: the dawn of psychosomatic ophthalmology for preventive and personalized medicine. EPMA J. Jun;9(2):133-160.
  3. Yilmaz U, Gokler ME, Unsal A. (2015). Dry eye disease and depression-anxiety-stress: A hospital-based case control study in Turkey. Pak J Med Sci. May-Jun;31(3):626-631.
  4. Ibid. Sabel. (2018).
  5. Sandoiu A. (2018). Persistent stress may lead to vision loss, study shows. Med News Today. Jun 21.
  6. Kurysheva NI, Shalapak VN, Ryabova TY. (2018). Heart rate variability in normal tension glaucoma: A case-control study. Medicine (Baltimore). Feb;97(5):e9744.
  7.  Sabel BA, Henrich-Noack P, Fedorov A, Gall C. (2011). Vision restoration after brain and retina damage: the “residual vision activation theory.” Prog Brain Res. 2011;192():199-262.  Complementary approaches include vision therapy and brain stimulation.[8. Kasten E, Wüst S, Behrens-Baumann W, Sabel BA. (1998). Computer-based training for the treatment of partial blindness. Nat Med. Sep; 4(9):1083-7.
  8. Sabel BA, Gudlin J. (2014). Vision restoration training for glaucoma: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Ophthalmol. Apr 1;132(4):381-9.
  9. Bola M, Gall C, Moewes C, Fedorov A, Hinrichs H, Sabel BA. (2014). Brain functional connectivity network breakdown and restoration in blindness. Neurology. Aug 5; 83(6):542-51.