Overweight Women at Less Risk of Developing Glaucoma?

Study finds women with higher BMIs are at less risk of developing normal-tension glaucoma

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A large, 20-year study from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary has determined that body mass index (BMI) is not linked to a higher risk of developing open-angle glaucoma.

Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of the eye disease that can lead to blindness if left untreated.

The research instead showed that higher BMIs in women, in fact, were associated with a reduced risk of normal-tension glaucoma, a variant of open-angle glaucoma in which intraocular pressure remains normal, but damage still occurs to the optic nerve, causing vision loss. Elevated eye pressure is generally what leads to optic-nerve damage in glaucoma.

The study followed 78,777 women and 41,352 men from 1980 until 2004. The link between higher BMI levels and lower normal-tension glaucoma risk was not found in men.

Lead researcher Louis R. Pasquale, MD, said clients and patients should be cautious about these findings until further research substantiates their research.

Understanding the mechanisms that link BMI and open-angle glaucoma might help solve some of the mysteries surrounding the complex eye disease, Pasquale said. He added that it's reasonable to speculate that higher estrogen levels in women with higher BMIs "might positively affect estrogen receptors in the optic nerve."

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Review Date: 
December 29, 2010
Last Updated:
December 29, 2010