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Cocaine and Other Illegal Drug Use Linked to Open-Angle Glaucoma

By YIPMAN, Oct 29, 2011 | Updated: Oct 29, 2011 | | |
    Cocaine and Other Illegal Drug Use Linked to Open-Angle Glaucoma

    Researchers have found that cocaine use is predictive of open-angle glaucoma (OAG), and cocaine users have a 45 percent increased risk for the eye disease.

    The study was of 5.3 million veterans, 91 percent of whom were male, who used outpatient clinics of the Department of Veterans Affairs during fiscal year 2009. About 83,000 (1.5 percent) had glaucoma, and about 178,000 (3.3 percent) had a diagnosis of cocaine abuse or dependency.

    The men with OAG showed significant exposure to amphetamines and marijuana as well.

    The glaucoma patients with a history of illegal drug use averaged 54 years of age, vs. 73 years for those patients without drug exposure.

    The researchers did not discover a reason for the increased risk of glaucoma among the drug users and said the issue requires more investigation. A report of the study appeared in the September issue of Journal of Glaucoma.

    Diabetes and Hypertension Increase Glaucoma Risk

    ANN ARBOR, Mich., August 2011 — People with diabetes and/or hypertension are more likely to develop open-angle glaucoma (OAG) as well.

    This finding is from a University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center study of billing records of more than 2 million people 40 and older who were enrolled in a managed care network and who visited an eye care professional at least once from 2001 to 2007.

    The diabetics in the group had a 35 percent increased risk for OAG, while those with hypertension alone had a 17 percent increased risk. The increased risk was 48 percent for people with both diabetes and hypertension.

    The study was funded by the National Eye Institute, and the report appeared online in July in the journal Ophthalmology.

    INDIANAPOLIS, October 2011



  1. frog
    A year ago I developped an oedema to the optical nerve of the right eye. It resulted in a (rather large) dark spot at the center of my visual field. The dark spot eventually migrated to the lower left quadrant of my visual field, and doesn't bother me anymore.

    My psychiatrist and my ophtalmologist said it might have been caused by my cocaine abuse.
  2. somnitek
    This is most concerning. I wonder if it is linked to the increase in blood pressure and heart rate that comes with cocaine use? I also wonder if there are not ways to mitigate the risk, especially if the former is the case. I know I tried to lower my BP/HR as soon as I finished using, in the past. Also, I was a sporadic user (always a weekend treat, rather than a regular thing. I always felt it was to disruptive to incorporate into regular use). The risk might rise according to habitual use? I hope not, for the sake of those who do have a habit.
    Well, as stated in the article: "The researchers did not discover a reason for the increased risk of glaucoma among the drug users and said the issue requires more investigation."

    I guess we have to wait a little bit to receive further and conclusive results.

    While researching, I came across some aditional information about this topic:

    is an eye disorder in which the optic nerve suffers damage, permanently damaging vision in the affected eye(s) and progressing to complete blindness if untreated. It is often, but not always, associated with increased pressure of the fluid in the eye (aqueous humour).[1] The term 'ocular hypertension' is used for cases having constantly raised intraocular pressure (IOP) without any associated optic nerve damage. Conversely, the term 'normal' or 'low tension glaucoma' is suggested for the typical visual field defects when associated with a normal or low IOP.

    Glaucoma can be divided roughly into two main categories, "open angle" and "closed angle" glaucoma.
    Closed angle glaucoma can appear suddenly and is often painful; visual loss can progress quickly, but the discomfort often leads patients to seek medical attention before permanent damage occurs.
    Open angle, chronic glaucoma tends to progress at a slower rate and patients may not notice they have lost vision until the disease has progressed significantly. Open-angle glaucoma accounts for 90% of glaucoma cases in the United States. It is painless and does not have acute attacks. The only signs are gradually progressive visual field loss, and optic nerve changes (increased cup-to-disc ratio on fundoscopic examination).

    Compounds in research

    Natural compounds

    Natural compounds of research interest in glaucoma prevention or treatment include: fish oil and omega 3 fatty acids, alpha lipoic acid,[47] bilberries, vitamin E, cannabinoids, carnitine, coenzyme Q10, curcurmin, Salvia miltiorrhiza, dark chocolate, erythropoietin, folic acid, Ginkgo biloba, ginseng, L-glutathione, grape seed extract, green tea, magnesium, melatonin, methylcobalamin, N-acetyl-L cysteine, pycnogenols, resveratrol, quercetin and salt. However, most of these compounds have not demonstrated effectiveness in clinical trials.[37][38][39] Magnesium, ginkgo, salt and fludrocortisone, are already used by some physicians.


    Studies in the 1970s showed marijuana, when smoked or eaten, effectively lowers intraocular pressure by about 25%, as much as standard medications.[48][49] In an effort to determine whether marijuana, or drugs derived from marijuana, might be effective as a glaucoma treatment, the US National Eye Institute supported research studies from 1978 to 1984. These studies demonstrated some derivatives of marijuana lowered intraocular pressure when administered orally, intravenously, or by smoking, but not when topically applied to the eye.

    In 2003, the American Academy of Ophthalmology released a position statement which said "studies demonstrated that some derivatives of marijuana did result in lowering of IOP when administered orally, intravenously, or by smoking, but not when topically applied to the eye. The duration of the pressure-lowering effect is reported to be in the range of 3 to 4 hours".[49][50]

    However, the position paper qualified that by stating marijuana was not more effective than prescription medications, and "no scientific evidence has been found that demonstrates increased benefits and/or diminished risks of marijuana use to treat glaucoma compared with the wide variety of pharmaceutical agents now available."

    The first patient in the United States federal government's Compassionate Investigational New Drug program, Robert Randall, was afflicted with glaucoma and had successfully fought charges of marijuana cultivation because it was deemed a medical necessity (U.S. v. Randall) in 1976.[51]

    Source: Glaucoma, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    I also found another article, that informs that Glaucoma tends to be inherited and suggests:

    If you are over the age of 40 and if you have a family history of glaucoma, you should have a complete eye exam with an ophthalmologist every one to two years. If you have health problems such as diabetes or a family history of glaucoma or are at risk for other eye diseases, you may need to visit your eye doctor more frequently.

    Why Does Pressure Rise in the Eye to Cause Glaucoma?

    Glaucoma usually occurs when intraocular pressure increases. This happens when the fluid pressure in the eye's anterior chamber, the area between the cornea and the iris, rises.

    Normally, this fluid, called aqueous humor, flows out of the eye through a mesh-like channel. If this channel becomes blocked, fluid builds up, causing glaucoma. The direct cause of this blockage is unknown, but doctors do know that it is most often inherited, meaning it is passed from parents to children.

    Less common causes of glaucoma include a blunt or chemical injury to the eye, severe eye infection, blockage of blood vessels in the eye, inflammatory conditions of the eye, and occasionally eye surgery to correct another condition. Glaucoma usually occurs in both eyes, but it may involve each eye to a different extent.

    You are at an increased risk of glaucoma if you:

    * Are of African-American, Irish, Russian, Japanese, Hispanic, Inuit, or Scandinavian descent.
    * Are over age 40.
    * Have a family history of glaucoma.
    * Have poor vision.
    * Have diabetes.
    * Take systemic corticosteroid medications*, such as prednisone.

    Source: Glaucoma and Your Eyes, from WebMD - Better information. Better health

    Corticosteroids are a class of steroid hormones that are produced in the adrenal cortex. Corticosteroids are involved in a wide range of physiologic systems such as stress response, immune response and regulation of inflammation, carbohydrate metabolism, protein catabolism, blood electrolyte levels, and behavior.

    Source: Corticosteroid, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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