Possible link found between hypothyroidism and glaucoma in men

08/25/04

SAN FRANCISCO--A significant association was found between hypothyroidism and open-angle glaucoma, according to a study appearing in the September issue of Ophthalmology, the clinical journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. The relationship between the two has been disputed in prior studies.

Glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness in the United States, is a condition in which the optic nerve is damaged. It can be associated with elevated pressure inside the eye and can lead to vision loss. According to the National Eye Institute, nearly 2.3 million people in the United States have open-angle glaucoma, the most common form. Hypothyroidism is a common endocrine condition, affecting approximately five percent of the population.

Nearly 600 male patients with newly diagnosed glaucoma were seen at Veterans Affairs Medical Center, in Birmingham, Ala from 1997 to 2001. They were compared with nearly 6,000 non-glaucoma male patients as the control group. Of the patients with glaucoma, 6.44 percent had a prior diagnosis of hypothyroidism, compared with 3.97 percent of the control group.

"This is the first study to show the association of hypothyroidism with glaucoma in a convincing manner," said Academy spokesperson Louis B. Cantor, MD, the Jay C. and Lucile L. Kahn Professor of Glaucoma Research and education director of glaucoma service at Indiana University School of Medicine's ophthalmology department in Indianapolis. "Now that an association has been demonstrated, hypothyroidism should be added to the list of potential risk factors to consider."

"Hypothyroidism, a treatable, but often undiagnosed condition, may be related to the development of glaucoma," said study author, Christopher A. Girkin, MD, an associate professor of ophthalmology at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. "Additional research is needed to determine the significance of hypothyroidism in the development of glaucoma and whether thyroid replacement therapy would have a significant effect on glaucomatous progression."

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