Background: Aqueous humor flow through the anterior chamber of the eye undergoes a circadian cycle. The rate of flow during the day is twice as high as the rate of flow at night. The pineal hormone, melatonin, also undergoes a circadian cycle. Melatonin levels are high at night, whereas aqueous humor flow is low. The authors studied the effect of oral melatonin on aqueous humor flow in humans. Methods: The effect of melatonin on aqueous humor flow was evaluated in 19 healthy human volunteers in a randomized, masked crossover study with a placebo control. The hormone or placebo was administered orally during the day when endogenous levels of melatonin are low. Aqueous flow was measured by fluorophotometry for 8 hours. Results: The mean rate of flow during melatonin treatment was 2.71 ± 0.64 μl/minute (± standard deviation). The rate of flow during placebo treatment was 2.80 ± 0.66 μl/minute. There is no statistically significant difference between these two rates (P = 0.4). With a sample size of 19, the study has a power of 92% to detect at least a 15% difference in the rate of flow under the two conditions. Measurement of plasma concentration of melatonin in five subjects confirmed that concentrations after oral dosage reached peaks comparable with the normal endogenous nocturnal peaks. Conclusions: The authors conclude that melatonin concentrations during the day, comparable with plasma concentrations that occur spontaneously during sleep, do not suppress aqueous humor formation. The authors find no support for the idea that plasma melatonin, per se, can suppress aqueous formation or that the circadian rhythm of plasma melatonin is primarily responsible for the circadian rhythm of aqueous humor flow.
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