Relation of body weight to glaucoma risk

August 20, 2010

A new study has found that for primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) a higher body weight in women, in particular body mass index BMI, is not associated with higher risk of the disease.

A new study has found that for primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) a higher body weight in women, in particular body mass index BMI, is not associated with higher risk of the disease.

Researchers at the Massachussetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, headed by Dr Louis Pasquale urge doctors and patients to proceed with caution in relation to these findings but said: “Understanding the mechanisms that drive BMI and other body composition factors in relation to POAG might help us solve some mysteries connected with this complex illness. It's reasonable to speculate that hormonally-controlled factors released from adipose or lean tissues may alter the risk of NTG in women. Higher BMI in postmenopausal women is linked with higher oestrogen levels, which might positively affect oestrogen receptors in the optic nerve,” he explained.

The study participants were 78,777 women enrolled in the Nurses Health Study (1980 through 2004) and 41,352 men enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986 through 2004). In women, each unit increase in BMI was associated with a six percent reduction in risk for NTG (defined as IOP equal to or less than 21 mmHg at the time of diagnosis of POAG). Also, in women, having higher BMI during the young adult years was associated with reduced risk of NTG. In men, BMI was not associated with POAG. Because the ethnicity of most participants was European-Caucasian, the study's implications may be limited to similar patient populations.

Dr Pasquale suggested that if the relationship of POAG to BMI and related body-composition factors can be clarified in future research, new treatments could be developed for patients with POAG, particularly those who have the normal tension variant of the disease.