Intraocular pressure and acclimatization to 4300 m altitude

A. Cymerman, P. B. Rock, S. R. Muza, T. P. Lyons, C. S. Fulco, R. S. Mazzeo, G. Butterfield, L. G. Moore

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37 Scopus citations


Background: Studies were conducted to determine the effect of altitude exposure on intraocular pressure (lOP) and any relationship with the severity of acute mountain sickness (AMS). Hypotheses: a) IOP is decreased during exposure to 4300 m altitude; b) there is a positive correlation between lOP and AMS; and c) there is a correlation between changes in urinary catecholamines and IOP. Methods: IOP (noncontact tonometry) was measured in 11 resting males during acute simulated altitude (446 mmHg, < 2 h, hypobaric chamber), during altitude acclimatization (15 d at 4300 m), and in 6 of the 11 volunteers during re-exposure in the chamber after 8 d at sea level (Study A). In a second study (Study B) of 12 females, IOP (contact tonometry) and 24-h urinary catecholamines were measured during a 50-h chamber exposure (446 mmHg). AMS severity was assessed using the Environmental Symptoms Questionnaire (ESQ-C). Results: IOP decreased 25% after 2 d at altitude and returned toward sea level values by 15 d (Study A). IOP was reduced 13% after 5 h of exposure followed by return toward sea level values (Study B). Significant correlation was found between the sea level IOP and ESQ-C (Study A); significant correlation was found between the reduction in IOP and the ESQ-C and urinary epinephrine concentrations (Study B). Conclusions: Altitude exposure resulted in a reduction in IOP that occurred within hours and recovered during acclimatization. This reduction may be related to increases in epinephrine concentration. Measurement of IOP before and during altitude exposure may provide an objective method of assessing an individual's response to hypoxic stress.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1045-1050
Number of pages6
JournalAviation Space and Environmental Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2000


  • Acute mountain sickness
  • Altitude
  • Cat-echolamines
  • Hypobaric hypoxia
  • Intraocular pressure


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