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What's Up Magazine

Dealing with the Consequences

Feb 11, 2014 04:29PM ● By Cate Reynolds
Image titleSome of us remember what a game changer The Pill was. Ease, reliability…it even helped regulate erratic menstrual cycles. First approved by the FDA in 1960, by 1965, 6.5 million American women were on the pill. Of course there were warnings about potential blood clots, smoking cigarettes while on the pill, and discontinuing use after a certain age. But most women weighed the advantages versus the disadvantages and opted for the first effective form of contraception they could control. However, a new study may be changing the game for the old game changer. The study, administered by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), examined the relationship between birth control pills and the protective levels of estrogen in a woman’s eyes. A group of 3,400 women over the age of 40 participated in the study. Women who had taken oral contraceptives for more than three years were twice as likely to be diagnosed with glaucoma, a condition which can damage the optic nerve. (That air blowing in your eye at the doctor’s office is checking for glaucoma.)

Dr. Maria Scott, medical director for Chesapeake Eye Care & Laser Center, offers this take on the study and on glaucoma: “Typically everyone over the age of 40 should have an eye exam every other year. If a woman is taking oral contraceptives and has a family history of glaucoma, she may want to have regular screenings regardless of age. Other risk factors for glaucoma include near sightedness, African-American ancestry, diabetes, and elevated intraocular pressure. Detecting glaucoma early is important because blindness from glaucoma is preventable if detected early,” she explains.
—S.H.

Bottom Line: “Although this study is important, research is needed to determine if there is a defi nitive connection between long-term use of oral contraception and a raised risk of glaucoma,” Dr. Scott concludes.

What’s Up? does not give medical advice. This material is simply a discussion of current information, trends, and topics. Please seek the advice of a physician before making any changes to your lifestyle or routine.