Early Onset Of Diabetes, Hypertension Linked To Risk Of Early Glaucoma

Early Onset Of Diabetes, Hypertension Linked To Risk Of Early Glaucoma

September 06, 2022

According to a recent study by UT Southwestern researchers, people are more likely to develop primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), the main cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, the earlier they have type 2 diabetes or hypertension in life.

The research, which was published in Clinical Ophthalmology, may help develop improved screening procedures for POAG, which accounts for up to 90% of glaucoma cases.

"Currently, we lack the tools to cure glaucoma, but with enough advanced notice, we can preserve patients' vision. Early detection of glaucoma is the key to better control of intraocular pressure and preventing blindness," said study leader Karanjit Kooner, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at UTSW.

POAG affects tens of millions of people worldwide. Dr. Kooner noted that patients are typically diagnosed in the latter stages of the disease, when vision has already been severely affected, because this disease has minimal symptoms in its early stages.

Although type 2 diabetes, hypertension, migraines, and obstructive sleep apnea have all been identified as risk factors for POAG, it is unclear how these conditions can affect the onset of the disease.

The study

To answer this question, Dr. Kooner and his associates gathered information from the medical records of 389 POAG patients who were all seen by Dr. Kooner between June 2019 and December 2019 at the UTSW Eye Clinic.

The age at which POAG first appeared was not associated with migraines or obstructive sleep apnea, according to statistical modeling conducted by the researchers.

The age at which type 2 diabetes and/or hypertension were diagnosed, however, was found to be strongly correlated with the beginning of POAG; the earlier patients presented with either one or both of these diseases, the sooner they were likely to acquire POAG.

Dr. Kooner pointed out that type 2 diabetes and hypertension both damage the blood vessels in the retina and the optic nerve, which may lead to alterations that predispose people to POAG, a different syndrome with a vascular root.

Adding type 2 diabetes and hypertension to the list of conditions that can prompt POAG screening—along with a family history of POAG, increased intraocular pressure, and Black race—and result in an earlier diagnosis of POAG could save patients' vision and quality of life, Dr. Kooner said.

Aaron Hurd, Jeffrey Wooliscroft, Rubeel Akram, Hafsa Zuberi, Betty Tong, Jane Gu, and Rubeel Akram were other UTSW researchers who contributed to this study.