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Diabetes a Major Risk Factor for Glaucoma

In study, two-thirds of cases show links to the blood-sugar disorder

TUESDAY, July 18, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- About two-thirds of all cases of the most common form of glaucoma are linked to type 2 diabetes, U.S. researchers report.

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States, with "primary open angle glaucoma" (POAG) the most common form of the disease.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 76,000 women enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study from 1980 to 2000. The women did not have POAG at the start of the study.

After controlling for age, race, hypertension, body mass index, physical activity, alcohol intake, smoking, and family history of glaucoma, the researchers concluded that 60 to 70 percent of POAG cases were attributed to type 2 diabetes. However, they note that the relation between type 2 diabetes and POAG did not increase with longer durations of diabetes.

People with type 2 diabetes should be screened for glaucoma, the study authors recommended.

The findings appear in the July issue of the journal Ophthalmology.

"This study supports the notion that type 2 diabetes is associated with an increased risk of glaucoma," study lead author Dr. Louis Pasquale, co-director of the Glaucoma Service at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, said in a prepared statement.

"While obesity fuels the type 2 diabetes epidemic, it appears that factors unrelated to obesity contribute to the positive association between type 2 diabetes and glaucoma. We were surprised to find this," he said.

"Our work suggests -- but in no way proves -- that factors other than lifestyle behavior contributing to insulin resistance could lead to elevated intraocular pressure and glaucoma," he added.

More information

The U.S. National Eye Institute has more about glaucoma.

SOURCE: Harvard Medical School, news release, July 10, 2006
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