New research from UAB says that thyroid disorder may be a risk factor for developing glaucoma. In a study posted online Thursday, Oct. 16 in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, the researchers say people diagnosed with glaucoma are 38 percent more likely to have had a thyroid condition during their lifetime.
"These findings suggest that those with a thyroid condition should be sure to see an ophthalmologist and tell them about their condition," said Gerald McGwin, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Epidemiology and associate director of UAB's Clinical Research Unit in the Department of Ophthalmology. "Glaucoma can be detected with proper screening and early detection is a key to treatment."
Glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness worldwide, causes progressive damage to the optic nerve, leading to diminished vision. The thyroid functions by producing hormones that regulate growth, protein production and the body's metabolism rate. McGwin and colleagues describe a number of potential mechanisms by which thyroid disorders and their treatment may affect the development of glaucoma by leading to increased pressure within the eyeball. Increased intraocular pressure is a hallmark of glaucoma.
McGwin said this study may lead to better understanding of the causes of glaucoma.
"Understanding potential links between thyroid problems and glaucoma gives us new avenues to pursue in understanding the basic cause or causes of glaucoma," McGwin said.
"In turn, this may help researchers develop more effective treatments, diagnostic methods or preventive measures," McGwin said.
McGwin and colleagues Cynthia Owsley, Ph.D., and Christopher Girkin, M.D., studied data on 12,376 people who participated in the 2002 National Health Interview Survey.