Estrogen Replacement Therapy to Reduce Glaucoma Risk

According to a recent clinical study, women who use estrogen-only hormone replacement treatment to alleviate menopausal symptoms may also be lowering their chance of developing glaucoma.

Glaucoma is a fairly prevalent type of eye illness in which high pressure within the eye causes damage to the nerve connecting the eye to the brain. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to vision loss. So, taking steps to treat (or prevent) Glaucoma as early as possible is essential to helping prevent blindness.

Study Linking Estrogen Therapy to Glaucoma Prevention

Dr. Joshua Stein, a professor of ophthalmology at the renowned University of Michigan conducted the first-of-its-kind study demonstrating that estrogen hormone replacement therapy is linked with a decreased risk of developing glaucoma.

In that study, insurance claim data for 152,000 women aged 50 and older was reviewed for the time period between 2001 and 2009. 60,000 of the women had received at least one prescription for estrogen-only treatment. The other females in the study received a mixture of estrogen and progesterone – or estrogen in conjunction with an androgen (male hormone). Approximately 2% of the women had a common kind of glaucoma known as primary open angle glaucoma throughout the research period.

The study revealed that each month of estrogen usage decreased a woman’s chance of developing glaucoma by 0.4 percent. This means that after four years of regular usage of estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy, the risk of Glaucoma would be reduced by approximately 19 percent.

The researchers only discovered a connection between estrogen-only treatment and a decreased chance of developing this kind of glaucoma. However, there was no evidence of a connection between the other hormone regimens (estrogen + progesterone;  or estrogen + androgen) and a reduction in glaucoma.

Estrogen Therapy After Ovary Removal Reduces Glaucoma Risk

Other research also supports the finding of the University of Michigan study. Data shows that hormone replacement therapy administered after ovary removal also reduces the chance of developing glaucoma.

The loss of estrogen caused by ovary removal has long been suggested to be a risk factor for developing glaucoma. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in 2005 to 2008 included 3,406 female respondents aged 40 years or older from throughout the United States.

That study discovered that removing the ovaries at a younger age was linked with a 6% per year increase in the risk of self-reported glaucoma in African American women. However, all women in the study who had their ovaries removed and had estrogen-only hormone replacement treatment had a 9% reduced risk of developing glaucoma for each year they utilized estrogen-only hormone replacement therapy.

And according to study presented in 2017 at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, female patients who received estrogen-only hormone replacement treatment after ovariectomy had a significantly reduced chance of getting glaucoma. This study was conducted concurrently at Johns Hopkins University’s Wilmer Eye Institute, Stanford University, and the University of California, San Francisco. It also appears to reaffirm previous research indicating that a higher lifetime estrogen exposure is associated with a decreased risk of developing glaucoma.

Preventing Glaucoma with Estrogen Replacement Therapy

All of this research suggests that estrogen-only replacement therapy is a possible new preventative treatment path that should be considered for lowering a woman’s risk of Glaucoma. Since glaucoma is one of the major causes of blindness globally – impacting approximately 60 million people worldwide – the implications of this data could be staggering.

While these studies still do not explicitly explain how estrogen seems to protect women from glaucoma, it is clear that estrogen protects against the nerve damage that occurs in glaucoma patients’ eyes. It should be noted, though, that because the existing research has thus far focused only on women, there is no information yet on whether estrogen-based therapies would also help males decrease their risk of glaucoma.

Many factors can reduce a woman’s lifetime estrogen exposure, including: beginning menstruation later in life, using oral contraceptives, entering menopause earlier in life, or having the ovaries removed earlier in life.

Since all of these conditions are associated with several negative side effects and symptoms, the clinically documented increased risk of developing glaucoma, only adds another reason to considering estrogen replacement therapy in women experiencing hormone decline.

Estrogen Replacement Therapy: (323) 986-5100

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: This article is provided as general information only and is not intended to be used as medical advice. While the benefits of hormone replacement are well documented through clinical research, we are not representing that hormone therapy is a “cure” for any disease. Only your treating physician can determine if hormone replacement may be a beneficial part of your healthcare regimen, based on your age, overall health, risk factors, and lifestyle.