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  • Writer's pictureRichard Kadri-Langford

Diagnosing the link between diabetes, hypertension and glaucoma

There’s no getting away from the fact that diabetes, particularly untreated diabetes, can be a precursor for a number of eye problems.

For example, diabetic retinopathy, which occurs when high sugar levels damage the vessels in the eyes, is present in a third of diabetic individuals. [1]

In addition, people with diabetes are 60% more likely to develop cataracts, [2] and 36% more likely to develop glaucoma.[3]

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is also a risk factor for the most prevalent type of glaucoma; primary open angle glaucoma. [4] Interestingly, low blood pressure at night has also been seen to adversely affect the progress of glaucoma.

These links between certain types of disease and eye health have long been explored; with the interrelationship between high blood pressure or high blood sugar levels and eye problems being fairly well understood. Nevertheless, research is ongoing, with one paper published in early 2022 adding a further piece to the jigsaw of understanding.

That research [5] looked at the relationship between the age at which diabetes or hypertension is diagnosed and the age at which primary open angle glaucoma (POAG) is diagnosed. The researchers also included a history of migraine and obstructive sleep apnoea in their study.

No causal link was found between a migraine or sleep apnoea and the early development of glaucoma. However, the research did identify a link between the age at which Type 2 diabetes and hypertension are diagnosed and the age at which glaucoma is diagnosed; with the correlation between diabetes and glaucoma being far stronger than between hypertension and glaucoma. The results were so significant that the researchers have recommended that if an individual is diagnosed with early-onset diabetes or hypertension, they should be screened for glaucoma.

It should be noted that there are a few caveats to the study. Firstly, this was a cross-sectional study and all the individuals studied were treated by the same physician. Secondly, intraocular pressure was not assessed as part of the study. And thirdly, there was no differentiation between those diabetics being treated with insulin and those who did not need insulin interventions. This last point is particularly important as insulin treatment has previously been identified as bringing an increased risk of developing glaucoma.

Nevertheless, the study has important implications for glaucoma identification. If those diagnosed with diabetes or hypertension are particularly encouraged to have regular eye checks, there is a chance that glaucoma could be identified at an earlier stage, thereby reducing the level of sight loss that might otherwise have occurred.

At Occuity, we are soon to launch the PM1- the world's only non-contact, handheld optical pachymeter in global markets. The device will assist in the easier, faster and safer diagnosis of glaucoma.

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