The Effect of Stress on Our Eyes & Health

Our 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.


  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. 


Marc Grossman, Doctor of Optometry and New York State Licensed Acupuncturist is author of several books, including Natural Eye Care – Your Guide to Healthy Vision.  Since 1980 Dr. Marc Grossman has helped many people maintain healthy vision and even improve eyesight. He is best described as a Holistic Eye Doctor, dedicated to helping people with such conditions ranging from myopia and dry eyes to potentially vision threatening diseases as macular degeneration and glaucoma. His combined multi-disciplinary approach using nutrition, eye exercises, lifestyle changes and Chinese Medicine provides him with a wide array of tools and approaches to tackle difficult eye problems. Dr. Grossman founded the Rye Learning Center in 1980, a multidisciplinary center for learning problems, in 1996 co-founded Integral Health Associates in New Paltz, New York, and in 1999 co-founded Natural Eye Care, Inc. For more information go to or call 845-255-3728.