Contraceptive Pill and Glaucoma Risk

IAS News 19 December 2013 | 0 Comments

Recently in the news there has been some startling figures regarding the female contraceptive pill and the potential for increasing the risk of glaucoma in those who take it for the long term. Those who were on the tablets were strongly advised to have tests carried out regularly to ensure the disease could be caught early enough – which is usually done by eye drops and thereby avoid many complications.

The risk it was said grew from 2.5% to 5% for those who had been on the contraceptive pill, and had been drawn from medical and lifestyle information provided by over 3000 women who were over the age of 40. Family history, short sightedness, raised pressure in the eye, diabetes and black African ancestry also raised the incidence of glaucoma. There has been no distinction between the types of pill, and there is still no definite proof that the contraceptive pill is what causes the increase in risk; however it is thought that it may be linked to the flattening out of oestrogens in the woman’s bloodstream that then affects the retinal ganglion cells.

However as with many stories of this nature there was a larger study which looked into 80,000 nurses and found that those who had taken the contraceptive pill for longer than 5 years only increased their risk by 0.5% to 3%. As ever it seems that regular testing for those who are in the at risk groups will be the best way to keep an eye on this potentially blinding disease.

On the other side of the coin there was also a piece about the potential for developing a male contraceptive pill. Here is a quick synopsis of that story. Scientists have discovered two proteins that can be blocked to prevent the sperms cells being released from the testes. By knocking out these two proteins in mice it was found that they became completely infertile – even though they continued to mate as mice do. The potential for suppressing the proteins with drugs is possible, with one of them already being blocked by treatment for prostate enlargement and high blood pressure! It may still be a while in the making but this treatment would seem to tick all the boxes of not interfering with genetics, and be completely reversible, whilst still leaving sexual function unaffected. I’m sure there will be much more on this story in the coming years as development is ongoing.

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