Patients that suffer from both diabetes and hypertension are at a 48 percent increased risk of open-angle glaucoma, the most common type of the blinding eye disease.
"Get your eyes checked at least once a year."
Dr. Joshua D. Stein, study leader and a glaucoma specialist at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center, noted that patients with diabetes and hypertension already were known to be at an elevated risk for eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, which harms blood vessels in the retina. This study and others suggest glaucoma also is a concern, he said.
Researchers reviewed the medical billing records of more than 2 million individuals over the age of 40 who were enrolled in a U.S. managed care network, and visited an eye care provider at least once between 2001 and 2007. They found that patients with diabetes are at a 35 percent increased risk of developing glaucoma while those with hypertension are at a 17 percent increased risk of the eye disease.
Investigators also noted a possible link between components of metabolic syndrome, which includes conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol and hyperlipidemia, a combination of elevated cholesterol and high triglycerides levels.
They found that hyperlipidemia reduced the chance of developing glaucoma by 5 percent. Additional research is underway to determine whether it is hyperlipidemia or medication used to treat the condition that lowers the risk of glaucoma. Findings could lead to new treatments for glaucoma.
Dr. Stein said the study reinforces the importance of regular eye exams for patients at an increased risk of glaucoma, including those with hypertension or diabetes.
The study was funded by the National Eye Institute and published in Ophthalmology.