You needed glaucoma surgery to keep the disease from further damaging your vision. You know surgery in general has a recovery period, but you’re an active person and don’t want to stop your workout routine. Can you exercise after glaucoma surgery?

Why do people need glaucoma surgery?

Glaucoma is an optic nerve disease often caused by pressure buildup or imbalances in the eye. These imbalances in pressure and circulation can damage the optic nerve and lead to permanent vision loss. While glaucoma can sometimes be controlled with medicine or laser treatments, in other cases surgery may be necessary.

With traditional glaucoma “filtration” surgery, the natural drainage pathways inside the eye are dysfunctional and need to be bypassed. A tiny drainage hole is made in the eye to re-route fluid to areas outside of the eye, where it can be absorbed by blood vessels. Sometimes, microscopic stents are implanted to hold the holes open and allow the fluid to drain.

Can I exercise after my surgery?

While glaucoma surgery recovery times vary from person to person, most people heal completely three to six weeks after surgery. During this time, particularly within the first two weeks, your doctor will likely advise you to avoid strenuous activity, which means your gym time needs to be put on hold.

After two weeks, however, your doctor may clear you to perform some activities, like biking or running, depending on how well your recovery has proceeded to date. However, weightlifting would not be good for you.

Robert Saltzmann, MD, FACS

“A good rule of thumb is that anything that might result in bearing down or saying ‘oompf,’ like lifting heavy weights, pushing with a bowel movement, coughing, sneezing, or vomiting hard, should all be avoided during this time,” CEENTA Ophthalmologist Robert Saltzmann, MD, FACS, said.

Once your vision has recovered fully, you will likely be cleared to restart your full exercise regimen, which includes everything from running to lifting weights. However, if you play sports like tennis or baseball, you are strongly advised to wear some sort of protective eyewear. You’ll also want to wear some sort of protective gear if you’re cycling.

Swimming poses some additional risks. While swimming can be good exercise, large bodies of water like pools and lakes often contain many infectious agents, all of which you’ll want to avoid. Unfortunately, glaucoma filtration surgery poses a low-level risk of infection for the rest of one’s life. Avoidance of eye opening under water becomes a critical consideration. With appropriate eye protection such as loose-fitting goggles, swimming in chlorinated or disinfected swimming pools with your head above water may be okay. However, avoidance of all swimming in freshwater lakes and streams often becomes a lifelong recommendation after glaucoma surgery.

Exercise is a great way to stay healthy, and following these guidelines will help you do so while not harming your healing eyes.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician. Dr. Saltzmann practices in CEENTA’s SouthPark and Belmont offices. To make an appointment with him or any of CEENTA’s eye doctors, call 704-295-3000. You can also request an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.


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