A Case of Exercise-induced Vision Loss

BMJ Case Reports

Intense workouts at the gym can cause many injuries. This is a rare case in which a handstand pushup caused temporary vision loss in a 32-year-old.

The young man reported a loss of vision in his right eye, after six hours of an intense workout. This workout included a handstand pushup which could have been a likely cause of the condition.

Examination findings: Diagnosis

On examination, the doctors found decreased vision in the right eye. Moreover, in addition to the hemorrhage that had occurred in front of the retina (the part of the eye where the image is formed), the doctors found several other bleeding points. This condition is known as “Valsalva retinopathy”.

Vision loss: how it happened

The exercise he performed induced a build-up of pressure in his chest, which then led to increase blood pressure and flow towards his eyes. It is likely, that the increase in pressure caused bleeding in front of his right retina. Therefore, the abnormal bleeding caused him to lose his vision temporarily.

“It’s like pulling a shade down over retina. It’s a recognized type of retinal problem we see on occasion in ophthalmology.”

Dr. Barrett Katz, a neuro-ophthalmologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center in New York..


This condition usually heals on its own and does not require any intervention, be it medical or surgical. This could have been the reason why the patient chose not to get any treatment.

However, if the doctors do treat a patient, laser therapy is the treatment of choice. This helps to break up the clots formed by the bleeding.

“The condition is pretty uncommon, he said, but can also be caused by other types of exertions, such as heavy lifting, coughing or screaming. However, I wouldn’t tell people not to stand on their heads.”



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