Long-Term Use of Oral Contraceptives Could Increase the Risk of Developing Glaucoma

When patients hear the word glaucoma, they may think that if they don’t fall into the groups of individuals typically at risk for developing the disease – such as those over age 40 or individuals with diabetes – that their risk factor is minimal at best. However, research presented at last fall’s Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) revealed that certain women might face an increased risk of developing glaucoma.

 

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Women who use oral contraceptive for three years or more may face an increased risk of glaucoma.
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According to the presentation, a study produced by researchers at the University of California San Francisco, Duke University School of Medicine and China’s Third Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University, is the first to show a connection between the long-term use of oral contraceptives and an increased risk of glaucoma. Researchers studied data collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2005-2008, which included information from over 3,400 women in the U.S. age 40 and older that completed the survey questions on vision and reproductive health.

 

The survey revealed that women who used oral contraceptives for more than three years are 2.05 times more likely to receive a diagnosis of glaucoma. According to the AAO, while “the results of the study do not speak directly to the causative effect of oral contraceptives on the development of glaucoma, it indicates that long-term use of oral contraceptives might be a potential risk factor for glaucoma,” noting that it should be added to a patient’s risk profile with other existing factors.

 

Shan Lin, M.D., a researcher and professor of clinical ophthalmology at the University of California San Francisco, said “This study should be an impetus for future research to prove the cause and effect of oral contraceptives and glaucoma,” advising that women who have taken them for three years or more should receive regular glaucoma screenings and be monitored closely by their eye care practitioner, especially if they already show other risk factors.

 

Comprehensive eye exams that include imaging of the retina and optic nerve are a must for diagnosing glaucoma in its earliest stages. Optos’ non-mydriatic ultra-widefield retinal imaging devices provide practitioners with the ability to take images from the central pole-to-periphery of up to 200 degrees of the retina in a single capture. Contact us to learn more about how our technology can help you see and diagnose more in 2014.