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Excess weight protects women against glaucoma

While maintaining a healthy weight is linked to a lowered risk of heart disease, being overweight may protect some women from glaucoma.

Excess weight protects women against glaucoma

While maintaining a healthy weight is linked to a lowered risk of heart disease and diabetes, being overweight may actually protect some women from a type of glaucoma.

Glaucoma is a potentially blinding illness and increased pressure in the eye is linked to optic nerve damage. Effective treatment to control eye pressure is available, but in people with normal-tension glaucoma, a variant of primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), optic nerve damage happens even though their eye pressure is not high. POAG is one of the most common age-related eye diseases.

While being overweight has many negative effects on health, higher risk of primary open-angle glaucoma is not one of them. To assess the relation between body shape and glaucoma, researchers studied 78,777 women and 41,352 men from Europe in the follow up studied the number of cases of primary open-angle glaucoma among overweight adults. Average age of the participants was 40 years. Data regarding their weight, waistline, BMI and eye illness was recorded.

During follow-up, it was found that each unit increase in body mass index (BMI) was associated with a 6 percent lower risk for normal-tension glaucoma. In addition, women with a high BMI when they were young also had a lower risk of developing normal-tension glaucoma. Among men, there was no association between BMI and the risk for POAG.

The finding suggests that overweight women have a lower risk of developing POAG. In particular, overweight women may be especially protected from a variant of POAG called normal-tension glaucoma.
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