Possible relationship between HRT and cataracts discovered

Possible relationship between HRT and cataracts discovered

Contact lens wearers may be interested in research emanating from Sweden which has identified a possible link between hormone replacement therapy (HRT), the popular postmenopausal medication, and incidences of cataracts.

The eight-year prospective study collected data from more than 30,000 postmenopausal women and discovered that the risk of needing cataract removal increased by 14 per cent in women taking the medication.

In addition, HRT users who had more than one alcoholic drink a day had a 42 per cent heightened risk in comparison with those women who used neither HRT nor alcohol. Smoking was found not to significantly affect risk, according to the research, which was reported in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

The results were adjusted for exposure to external estrogens, such as birth control pills, as well as reproductive and other health factors.

More than 4,300 cataract removal surgeries were performed on the study"s participants between 1997 and 2005 and the research was conducted as part of the Swedish Mammography Cohort, which was set up to explore lifestyle factors and chronic diseases.

"If future studies confirm the associations we found, increased risk for cataract removal should be added to the list of potential negative HRT outcomes," commented study leader Dr Birgitta Lindblad, from Sundsvall Hospital in Sweden.

"Cataract is more prevalent in postmenopausal women than in men at similar ages; this implies that hormonal differences are involved and suggests a possible role for estrogen," Dr Lindblad explained.

Commenting on the research, Winfried Amoaku, vice president and chairman of the scientific committee of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, said: "The advice to women patients with menopausal symptoms should not change: if they are prescribed HRT, they should continue to take it as normal.

"Cataracts are easily treated and are a very common disease especially among older people - male and female."

He said there are a number of prescribed drugs that are linked to eye disease. These include steroid tablets for inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and bowel disease, which predispose patients to cataracts and glaucoma, Mr Amoaku claimed.

In other recent eye-related research, the first study to specifically explore the impact of smoking on uveitis-inflammation of the eye"s middle layer of tissue has been carried out.

Dr Nisha Acharya, director of the uveitis service at the University of California"s department of ophthalmology, led the study. Researchers analysed medical records for smoking status and the type and cause of inflammation for all uveitis clinic patients seen at the University of California"s FI Proctor Foundation between 2002 and 2009.

They found that tobacco smoke most likely plays a role in the eye disease, which is the cause of around ten per cent of blindness in the US.

In addition, the study discovered that people who smoked were 2.2 times more likely to have uveitis than those who had never done so. Meanwhile smoking correlated with higher risk of uveitis for all anatomical locations within the eye as well as for both infectious and non-infectious disease types.

A notably strong link was also identified between smoking and swelling of the central area of the retina in patients with certain kinds of uveitis.

"Cigarette smoke includes compounds that stimulate inflammation within the blood vessels and this may contribute to immune system disruption and uveitis," Dr Acharya commented.

by Alexa Kaczka

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