The study examined the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, and found that women who used birth control pills for at least three years had doubled their chances of having glaucoma. On Sunday, the study’s three researchers – from the University of California-San Francisco, Duke University and Third Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University – presented their findings to the American Association of Ophthalmology.
The findings have not been peer-reviewed.
While the study, which used data from 3,000 women over the age of 40, did find other risk factors for glaucoma – including age and a history of retinopathy – this is the second time birth control pills have been linked to glaucoma. The first was a 2011 study that found a small potential increase in the risk of glaucoma.
The link is suspected to be related to estrogen levels in women who are on the pill. While on the pill, estrogen levels can be unnaturally low for long periods of time, and natural spikes in estrogen are prevented.
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Oral contraceptives have been found to raise other health risks for women. The National Cancer Institute reports a link between the pill and a higher risk of breast cancer, and a possible higher risk of cervical cancer.
According to American Life League Executive Director Paul Rondeau, “multiple studies link the pill to various cancers, blood clots, and now glaucoma. Even though it seemed obvious to many, it took decades to link cigarette smoking to cancer. Where will we be years from now, with billions of women worldwide being encouraged to consume these artificial hormones?
“Obamacare may actually usher in a new wave of breast cancer and other diseases like glaucoma among women,” said Rondeau. “[The pill] may seem minor at the time of ingestion, but we have to keep in mind that billions of women are taking these artificial hormones over a long period of time. They are particularly marketed towards the youngest women – teens and even adolescents – who have the least ability to make informed decisions about their long-term health.”
Even accounting for the use of birth control, the chances of glaucoma are small. Fewer than one percent of Americans suffer from it, and the CDC found only 1.86% of Americans 40 and over suffer from it. Black Americans have a risk factor three times that of the rest of the population.