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Am J Ophthalmol. 1994 May 15;117(5):603-24.

Nocturnal arterial hypotension and its role in optic nerve head and ocular ischemic disorders.

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  • 1Department of Ophthalmology, Division of Biostatistics, College of Medicine, University of Iowa, Iowa City.


We measured 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring and diurnal curve of the intraocular pressure in 166 white patients with anterior ischemic optic neuropathy, normal-tension glaucoma, primary open-angle glaucoma, and other optic nerve head disorders. Hourly average blood pressure data analyses showed a significant (P < .0001) decrease in mean systolic (26%) and diastolic (33%) blood pressure measurements at night. A significantly (P = .0028) lower nighttime mean diastolic blood pressure and a significantly (P = .0044) greater mean percentage decrease in diastolic blood pressure were noted in normal-tension glaucoma than in anterior ischemic optic neuropathy. Patients with arterial hypertension taking oral hypotensive therapy showed a significant association between progressive visual field deterioration and nocturnal hypotension, particularly in anterior ischemic optic neuropathy. Intraocular pressure showed no significant correlation with visual field deterioration in any of these conditions. Our findings suggest that nocturnal hypotension, in the presence of other vascular risk factors, may reduce the optic nerve head blood flow below a critical level, and thereby may play a role in the pathogenesis of anterior ischemic optic neuropathy and glaucomatous optic neuropathy; that is, nocturnal hypotension may be the final insult in a multifactorial situation. The same mechanisms may be true of a number of other ocular ischemic disorders. This finding opens a new dimension in the understanding and management of these visually disabling diseases.

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