Background: We investigated the effects on intraocular pressure (IOP) and blood pressure (BP) of playing brass and woodwind instruments by monitoring IOP and BP in a representative group of professional musicians under a variety of common playing conditions.
Methods: IOP and BP measurements were recorded from 37 brass and 15 woodwind instrument players, before and after playing tones of low, middle and high frequency. We also measured IOP and BP before and during playing common exercises of 10 minutes duration, as well as after playing a sustained high-pitched tone, to test for changes in IOP under conditions of maximum effort.
Results: Playing tones on brass and woodwind instruments causes a temporary elevation in IOP and BP, depending on the tone frequency: brass instrument players showed a significant elevation after playing high and middle frequency tones (p < 0.0001) whereas woodwind instrument players showed a significant increase only for high frequencies (e.g., oboe, 17 ± 2.9 mm Hg to 21 ± 4.4 mm Hg; p = 0.017). Playing a typical exercise of 10 minutes temporarily increased IOP in both groups of musicians. Finally, playing a sustained tone of high pitch caused a significant elevation in IOP in brass instrument players only (16.6 ± 3.5 mm Hg to 23.3 ± 8.9 mm Hg; p < 0.0001).
Conclusions: The temporary and sometimes dramatic elevations and fluctuations in IOP observed in this study, coupled with daily exposure to instrument play, puts professional wind instrument players at increased risk of developing glaucoma. Consequently, these musicians should be monitored for signs of glaucoma, especially those with co-existing risk factors.