The birth control pill – or “the pill,” as it’s more commonly referred to – has long been touted as a purveyor of multiple health benefits. From clearing skin to easing ovarian cysts, many researchers have praised the myriad of health benefits that come with long-term use of the pill.
Perhaps that’s why many health professionals are paying attention to the results of a study that established a connection between long-term use of the pill and glaucoma risks.
Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, Duke University School of Medicine, and Third Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University, China, found that women who have taken birth control pills are twice as likely to develop glaucoma than those who do not take birth control pills. Researchers used the results of this study to urge patients to alert their ophthalmologists about what birth control they utilize, and how long they’ve been taking it for.
Glaucoma is a disease that can severely damage the eye’s optic nerve, which is responsible for sending signals from your retina to your brain. Essentially, the optic nerve is responsible for the images we see – and when glaucoma damages the nerve, our vision can be severely impaired or even eliminated altogether.
Other health researchers warn patients not to throw away their birth control so quickly. While the connection is indeed cause for further study; the news isn’t surprisingly; estrogen has long been thought to play a significant role in the development of glaucoma. Researchers also indicate that there’s no need for women to worry about their birth control, unless they demonstrate other risk factors for developing glaucoma, including the following:
- Advanced age
- Family history with glaucoma
- African ancestry
- Hispanic ancestry
- Past eye injury or disease
- Low blood pressure
If you have any of the above risk factors for developing glaucoma, it’s important to communicate your concern with your ophthalmologist right away. Together with your gynecologist, your ophthalmologist can help determine which contraceptives you can utilize without increasing your risk for developing glaucoma.
To learn more about your risk for glaucoma or to schedule a screening, visit Dr. Griffiths at NewView Eye Center in Reston, VA today. Our practice serves the greater Washington DC area, including Herndon and Fairfax County. Just fill out the form in the top right corner or call 703-834-9777.