Cocaine users have 45 percent increased risk of glaucoma

September 29, 2011

A study of the 5.3 million men and women seen in Department of Veterans Affairs outpatient clinics in a one-year period found that use of cocaine is predictive of open-angle glaucoma, the most common type of glaucoma.

The study revealed that after adjustments for race and age, current and former had a 45 percent of . Men with open-angle glaucoma also had significant exposures to amphetamines and marijuana, although less than cocaine.

Patients with open-angle glaucoma and history of exposure to illegal drugs were nearly 20 years younger than glaucoma patients without a history (54 years old versus 73 years old).

Study results appear in the September issue of Journal of Glaucoma.

"The association of with open-angle glaucoma requires further study, but if the relationship is confirmed, this understanding could lead to new strategies to prevent vision loss," said study first author Regenstrief Institute investigator Dustin French, Ph.D., a research scientist with the Center of Excellence on Implementing Evidence-Based Practice, Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Health Services Research and Development Service in Indianapolis. A who studies health outcomes, he is also an assistant professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

Glaucoma is the second most common cause of blindness in the United States. Although the mechanism of vision loss in glaucoma is not fully understood, most research has focused on an increase in gradually injuring the . Most individuals who develop open-angle glaucoma have no symptoms until late in the disease process when substantial peripheral vision has been lost.

Dr. French and colleagues found that among the 5.3 million veterans (91 percent of whom were male) who used VA outpatient clinics in fiscal year 2009, nearly 83,000 (about 1.5 percent) had glaucoma. During the same fiscal year, nearly 178,000 (about 3.3 percent) of all those seen in the outpatient clinics had a diagnosis of cocaine abuse or dependency.

Although this study determined significant increased risk for glaucoma in those with a history of drug use, it does not prove a causal relationship. It is unlikely that glaucoma preceded the use of illegal drugs, since substance use typically begins in the teens or twenties.

"The Veterans Health Administration substance use disorder treatment program is the largest and most comprehensive program of its kind in the country," said Dr. French. He believes that the reliability of the data used in the glaucoma study reflects the overall scope and high quality of the VHA substance use program.

The long-term effects of cocaine use on intraocular pressure, the only modifiable risk factor for glaucoma, requires further study. Should the association of cocaine use and glaucoma be confirmed in other studies, substance abuse would present another modifiable risk factor for this blinding disease.

Explore further: Glaucoma report points to increased costs

More information: "Substance Use Disorder and the Risk of Open-Angle Glaucoma" Journal of Glaucoma.

Related Stories

Acquired childhood glaucoma more common than congenital types

April 12, 2010

Childhood glaucoma may most commonly be caused by trauma, surgery or other acquired or secondary cause, according to a report in the April issue of Archives of Ophthalmology. In one Minnesota county, the condition occurred ...

Obese women may be less likely to develop glaucoma

February 14, 2011

Obesity may be associated with higher eye pressure and a decreased risk of open-angle glaucoma in women but not men, according to a report posted online today that will appear in the May issue of Archives of Ophthalmology.

Recommended for you

In sub-Saharan Africa, cancer can be an infectious disease

August 26, 2016

In 1963, Irish surgeon Denis Parson Burkitt airmailed samples of an unusual jaw tumor found in Ugandan children to his colleague, Anthony Epstein, at Middlesex Hospital in London. Epstein, an expert in chicken viruses and ...

Zika virus may persist in the vagina days after infection

August 25, 2016

The Zika virus reproduces in the vaginal tissue of pregnant mice several days after infection, according to a study by Yale researchers. From the genitals, the virus spreads and infects the fetal brain, impairing fetal development. ...

Team discovers how Zika virus causes fetal brain damage

August 24, 2016

Infection by the Zika virus diverts a key protein necessary for neural cell division in the developing human fetus, thereby causing the birth defect microcephaly, a team of Yale scientists reported Aug. 24 in the journal ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.