Early Ovary Removal Could Affect Your Eyes

Oophorectomy in early 40s increased glaucoma risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world. For women, the risk of glaucoma may even be related to estrogen levels.

A recent study found that women who had their ovaries and fallopian tubes surgically removed before the age of 43 were at increased risk for glaucoma (progressive deterioration of the optic nerve that leads to blindness) compared to women who underwent the procedure after that age.

The researchers discovered that hormone therapy did not decrease the risk for glaucoma among the women who had the surgery before 43 years old.

"Discuss the risk of glaucoma with your OBGYN. "

The lead author of this study was Thasarat S. Vajaranant, MD, from the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, and the Division of Epidemiology in the Department of Health Sciences Research at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

The study included 1,044 women who underwent bilateral oophorectomy (surgical removal of the ovaries and fallopian tubes) in Olmsted County, Minnesota between 1950 and 1987.

All the women had the surgery before menopause, and were on average 46 years old at time of procedure.

None of the women had the oophorectomy due to an estrogen-related cancer, such as breast or ovarian cancer, and none of the women had been diagnosed with glaucoma before the procedure.

There was also an age-matched control group of 1,070 women from Olmsted County that had not undergone bilateral oophorectomy.

Data was taken from the records of the Rochester Epidemiology Project that includes the medical records of patients from various public health care providers in Olmsted County.

The researchers conducted follow-up for an average of 26 years.

The findings showed that 147 (14 percent) of the women who underwent oophorectomy, and 133 (12 percent) of the women in the control group developed glaucoma.

In the overall study population — including women from the oophorectomy and control group — there was no increased risk of glaucoma associated with the procedure.

A total of 344 women underwent the procedure before the age of 43. The researchers determined that these women had a 60 percent increased risk of glaucoma compared to the women who underwent bilateral oophorectomy after the age of 43.

These findings were independent of cases of high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or disorders of lipid metabolism (fat digestion) at the time of the procedure.

Eleven percent of the women who underwent oophorectomy before 43 years old were treated with estrogen until the age of 50; however, hormone therapy only reduced the risk of glaucoma by 1 percent.

Dr. Vajaranant and team noted a few limitations.

First, there are different types of glaucoma and not all of them are related to bilateral oophorectomy but the researchers did not consider the specific types because of the small study sample. Second, the group of women who underwent the procedure before 43 years old and were treated with estrogen was very small.

Third, the data did not include glaucoma diagnoses that may have come from a private practice. Fourth, the women in the control group may have hit menopause or had underwent a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus) without oophorectomy.

This study was published in the April edition of Menopause.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute on Aging, the National Eye Institute, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Office of Research on Women's Health provided funding.

Review Date: 
April 13, 2014
Last Updated:
April 14, 2014