Glaucoma Risk Increases in Thyroid Disorders

Published: October 22, 2012

In this study, the association between a self-reported history of thyroid problems and a self-reported history of glaucoma (increased eye pressure) was evaluated in 12,376 participants from the U.S.-based 2002 National Health Interview Survey. Those who reported a history of any thyroid problem had a 50% increased risk of having also had glaucoma (increased eye pressure). The prevalence of glaucoma was 6.5% in those who did report thyroid problems and 4.4% in those who did not.

"There are a number of purported mechanisms by which thyroid disorders and addressing them are believed to affect the development of glaucomatous damage," wrote Dr. J.M. Cross, from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and colleagues. "In Graves Disease, [intraocular pressure] may be raised as a result of contraction of the extraocular muscles against intraorbital adhesions or orbital congestion due to increased tissue volumes. In the case of hypothyroidism, excessive mucopolysaccharide accumulation within the trabecular meshwork acts like a surfactant, sticking together adjacent endothelial membranes."

"The results of this study lend support to the hypothesis that thyroid disorders may increase the risk of glaucoma," the study authors wrote. "Research should continue evaluating potential mechanisms underlying this relationship and whether the treatment of thyroid problems reduces subsequent glaucoma risk."

Limitations of this study include reliance on self-report and lack of data on the specific type of glaucoma and/or thyroid disorder present.

The take home point is that those with thyroid disorders (common in CFS and FMS) should do their regular eye exams (every 2 years is reasonable), and those with glaucoma should be checked for thyroid issues if they have symptoms of fatigue or feeling "hyper."

The good news is that:

  1. Glaucoma screening is a simple part of a normal eye exam and checkup.
  2. Glaucoma is usually easy to address both naturally and by standard medicine.

For more information, see "Glaucoma."


Article in Br J Ophthalmol. Published online October 16, 2008 (free registration required)

Jacob Teitelbaum, MD

is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of eight research studies on their effective treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.

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