A study released last month at the American Academy of Ophthalmology stated that women who are long-term users of contraceptives have a higher risk of eye disease.

In particular, these women are twice as likely to develop glaucoma, one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide. With more and more women using oral contraceptives as their preferred method of birth control, the number of reported eye related illnesses among females is expected to rise in future years.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 80% of all women between the ages of 20 and 24 have been prescribed oral contraceptives. In recent years, oral contraceptives have been increasingly marketed to young women as a means of shortening and eliminating their menstrual cycles as well as reducing cramping and PMS symptoms. While oral contraceptives are primarily used to prevent pregnancy, they are also prescribed for the treatment of a number of secondary reproductive disorders.

This study does not yet discuss the causal relationship between contraceptives and glaucoma, although it does indicate a definite correlation. Other factors that lead to an increased risk of glaucoma include; race, age and family history. The research study covered 3406 participants over 40, all from the United States, who have taken oral contraceptives for three or more years; it did not extend to other contraceptive methods.

Despite the fact that women over the age of 40 who take oral contraceptives are at an increased risk of developing glaucoma, this birth control method remains popular with women of childbearing age. Oral contraceptives, one of the most convenient and effective means of birth control, also come with increased risks to smokers and females aged 35 and over. Women on oral contraceptives should ask their doctors to help determine if they are at an increased risk of developing glaucoma by discussing their family history as well as the known symptoms of this disease.

Researchers from a number of involved universities and foundations urge women to have regular glaucoma screenings. When caught in its early stages, glaucoma can be treated effectively and patients are less likely to lose their vision. Women who choose to stop taking oral contraceptives for eye health reasons should choose an alternative birth control method while under the guidance of their doctors. The ingestion of oral contraceptives can be added to a host of other risk factors for glaucoma, including family history of glaucoma, increased eye pressure, and existing defects.

Women who continuously take oral contraceptives are approximately twice as likely to develop glaucoma as those who rely on other birth control methods. Learn if you are at risk of being diagnosed with glaucoma by visiting rmseye.com or calling our Orlando ophthalmologist, Dr. Membreno.