Regular use of birth control pills can pose serious risks to the eye sight, new research warns.
In the study, taking oral contraceptives over three years was strongly linked to an increased risk of glaucoma, an eye condition caused by the pressure build up inside the eyes. The condition, which damages the optic nerve, often leads to loss of vision.
The study looked at 3,406 women aged 40 years. The participants were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted by the Centers for Disease Control. The women filled questionnaires related to their vision and reproductive health. Their eyes were also tested.
Long-term use of oral contraceptives, i.e., three years or more than that doubled (2.05 times) the risk of developing glaucoma.
Based on their findings, researchers said that oral birth control pills can be added to the long list of factors that has been previously linked to glaucoma, including ethnicity, family history, high eye pressure or other visual related defects.
"This study should be an impetus for future research to prove the cause and effect of oral contraceptives and glaucoma," Dr Shan Lin, lead researcher and professor of clinical ophthalmology at the University of California San Francisco, said in a statement. "At this point, women who have taken oral contraceptives for three or more years should be screened for glaucoma and followed closely by an ophthalmologist, especially if they have any other existing risk factors."
Lin and his colleagues presented their findings at the recent 117th Annual Meeting of the African Academy of Ophthalmology in New Orleans.
The findings are expected to help prevent the condition that is not curable or irreparable. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness across the whole world, followed by cataracts. Nearly 4.5 million people from different parts of the world are affected by this condition.
Following are some factors that increase the risk of glaucoma and some methods to prevent it, as provided by the Mayo Clinic in the US:
- Experience abnormal internal eye pressure
- Ageing - people aged above 60 are at higher risk
- People who have a family history of the eye condition
- Eye Injuries, eye surgery, eye conditions like eye tumour, eye inflammation, lens dislocation and retinal detachment. Apart from that people who experience long sight or short sight are at increased risk of developing this condition
- Health conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and hypothyroidism can contribute to this condition
- Corticosteroid medications, particularly eye drops increase the risk
- Regular eye check-up, every three to five years after turning 40 years and once in a year after age 60. Early detection helps reduce the damages caused by this condition to the eye.
- Use Glaucoma eye drops to treat increased eye pressure