Can birth control cause glaucoma?


Researchers from the University of California, Duke University School of Medicine and Third Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang China presented a study that shows that women over 40 years old taking oral contraceptives for more than three years are twice as likely to be diagnosed with glaucoma.  It should be noted that the study found an association between birth control and glaucoma, but has not proved that it actually causes glaucoma.

Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve that can lead to vision loss and blindness if untreated.  It is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the United States.  The most common form of glaucoma, primary open angle, is occurs when the pressure within the eye increase and damages the delicate nerve within the optic nerve.  The mechanism in which contraceptives causing this increase in pressure in unknown.

Doctors behind the study urged women at risk to have regular checks for early signs of the disease, which can usually be treated with eye drops if it is caught in time.  These new findings are interesting but do not confirm a link between long term use of oral contraceptives and a raised risk of glaucoma. Further research is needed to examine whether there is a definite association.