Intra-ocular pressure changes during maximal isometric contraction: does this reflect intra-cranial pressure or retinal venous pressure?
Dickerman, R.D.; Smith, G.H.; Langham-Roof, L.; McConathy, W.J.; East, J.W.; Smith, A.B.
Neurological Research 21(3): 243-246
ISSN/ISBN: 0161-6412 PMID: 10319330 DOI: 10.1080/01616412.1999.11740925
Recent publications have suggested that intra-ocular pressure (IOP) may be an indirect assessment of intra-cranial pressure (ICP). Both IOP and ICP have similar physiologic pressure ranges and similar responses to changes in intra-abdominal, intra-thoracic and aortic pressure. Previous studies have demonstrated the relationships between retinal arterial pressure and aortic pressure, intra-ocular pressure and retinal venous pressure, intra-cranial pressure and retinal venous pressure. Power athletes routinely utilize the Valsalva maneuver during weightlifting. In fact there are reports of stroke, cerebral hemorrhage, subarachnoid hemorrhage, conjunctival, foveal and retinal hemorrhage, retinal detachment, hiatal hernia and pneumothorax associated with weightlifting. These events are thought to occur secondary to the extreme pressure elevations that occur in the intra-abdominal, intra-thoracic, intra-cranial, intra-ocular and vascular compartments. To date no human studies have examined the IOP changes that may occur with heavy resistance exercise. Therefore, we recruited power athletes (n = 11), who had participated in prior studies, from the local metropolitan area. The athletes had blood pressure status, drug screening and medical histories performed during previous investigations. Intra-ocular pressure was measured by noncontact tonometry at rest and during maximal isometric contraction. All subjects resting IOP were within normal ranges (mean 13 +/- 2.8 mmHg). Intra-ocular pressures were significantly (p < 0.0001) elevated in each subject during maximal contraction (mean 28 +/- 9.3 mmHg). One subject's IOP reached 46 mmHg during maximal contraction. Linear regression analysis demonstrated a significant linear relationship (r = 0.62, p < 0.0001) in the net change of IOP from rest to maximal contraction for each subject. This study demonstrates that IOP elevates to pathophysiologic levels during resistance exercise. The findings of conjunctival hemorrhages in two subjects further supports IOP being reflective of retinal venous pressure. The enormous pressures generated by power athletes during weightlifting leads to elevations in ICP which obstruct venous outflow leading to hemorrhage and elevations in IOP. The question remains as to whether these intermittent bursts of elevated IOP can lead to long-term pathological sequelae.