Researchers might want to start exploring estrogen as a way to treat glaucoma. That’s because a recent study by an ophthalmologist at the University of Michigan found that women who were taking estrogen to relieve menopausal symptoms had a reduced risk of glaucoma.
In the study, recently published in the online edition of JAMA Ophthalmology, researcher Dr. Joshua Stein studied the information of over 152,000 women aged 50 or older who took hormone replacement therapies for at least four years. Of the women, 60,000 were taking an estrogen-only therapy while the other women were taking a combination therapy.
The study found that each month of estrogen treatment reduced a woman’s risk of glaucoma by 0.4%, which meant that by the end of four years, a woman reduced her risk of glaucoma by 19%.
Stein hypothesizes that estrogen might lower pressure in the eye or protect certain cells in the eye, thus lowering the risk of glaucoma. Researchers hope that the findings may encourage drug companies to research the possibility of estrogen derivatives being used as a topical treatment for the prevention of glaucoma.
The study didn’t find a cause-and-effect link between glaucoma risk and estrogen use, but rather an association between the two that could be furthered researched. Since the study focused only on women’s use of estrogen, there’s no way of knowing yet if estrogen could help reduce the risk of glaucoma in men.
Glaucoma is an eye disease where the optic nerve becomes damaged, which can lead to progressive, irreversible vision loss. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation.
Glaucoma is a gradual disease that may have no early warning signs or noticeable symptoms. Certain populations are at higher risk for glaucoma:
- People over the age of sixty
- People of certain ethnicities: African Americans, older Hispanics, and Asians are all at higher risk for different types of glaucoma
- People who have family members with glaucoma
- People who have had an eye injury
Since glaucoma may not have any noticeable symptoms, it’s important for everyone to have regular, comprehensive eye exams. The American Optometric Association recommends that children and adults under the age of sixty have an eye exam every two years, with those over the age of sixty receiving an eye exam annually. Your eye doctor may have a different recommendation for how often you receive an exam based on your risk factors for eye diseases including glaucoma, as well as macular degeneration and cataracts.
Because the vision loss caused by glaucoma is irreversible, early diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma is pivotal.
If you haven’t had an eye exam lately or if you’re at higher risk for glaucoma, please schedule a comprehensive eye exam with your Gainesville, FL medical provider today.