A Blinding Pill to Swallow?

woman eyesOn Monday we brought you news about the health benefits of sex. Today the news is not so good….and for many women will be extremely concerning.

Research presented earlier this week at the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual meeting, showed that women who have taken oral contraceptive pills for three or more years are twice as likely to suffer from glaucoma.

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness affecting nearly 60 million worldwide.

glaucomaThe researchers caution gynecologists and ophthalmologists to be aware of the role oral contraceptives might play in glaucomatous diseases, and inform patients to have their eyes screened for glaucoma if they also have other risk factors.

The study – conducted by researchers at University of California, San Francisco, Duke University School of Medicine and Third Affiliated Hospital of Nanchang University, Nanchang, China – is the first to establish such increased risk.

The researchers utilized 2005-2008 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The study group included 3,406 US women aged 40 years or older who completed the survey’s vision and reproductive health questionnaire and underwent eye exams. They found that females who had used oral contraceptives, no matter which kind, for longer than three years are 2.05 times more likely to report that they have glaucoma.

aao posterAlthough the results of the study do not speak directly to the causative effect of oral contraceptives on the development of glaucoma, they indicate that long-term use of oral contraceptives might be a potential risk factor for glaucoma. Certainly, “the pill” needs to , be considered as part of the risk profile. Other risk factor include:  African American- ethnicity, family history of glaucoma, history of increased eye pressure or existing visual field defects. Previous studies in the field have shown that estrogen may play a significant role in the pathogenesis of glaucoma.

This study should be an impetus for future research to prove the cause and effect of oral contraceptives and glaucoma,” said Shan Lin, M.D., lead researcher and professor of clinical ophthalmology at the University of California San Francisco. “At this point, women who have taken oral contraceptives for three or more years should be screened for glaucoma and followed closely by an ophthalmologist, especially if they have any other existing risk factors.”

Given the fact that 28% of all sexually active women in the US are on the pill, that’s a lot of glaucoma screening. You may want to call your ophthalmologist or optometrist now and get a jump on the line. Alternately, you may want to reconsider your birth control.

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Halloween Health Hazards

While fake blood and creepy costumes help make Halloween a howl, this October 31, beware of the hidden hazards that can turn the night downright dangerous. SRxA’s Word on Health shares these top tips from top docs, to keep you safe.

While there’s few things that says Halloween like a Jack-O’-Lantern, the American Academy of Pediatrics caution that pumpkin carving is no craft for children. Instead, they suggest that young kids limit themselves to drawing designs that adults can cut out. And rather than using candles to light your lantern, they suggest you consider glow sticks to get that long-lasting luminosity.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology, warns that if you want to see another Halloween you shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the increasingly popular crazy colored contact lenses on sale in party stores.  Although cat-like contacts may look cool, these over-the-counter lenses aren’t worth the risk. They can cause serious eye disorders and infections that could result in blindness.

And it’s not just contact lenses. Other parts of your Halloween costume can also be hazardous to your health. Over-sized costumes can quickly turn trick-or-treating into trip-and-tumbling.  And to avoid having to drop and roll, the  U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends you only wear costumes made from flame-resistant fabrics.

Similarly, choose your mask carefully. Whether you chose “The Scream, Frankenstein, or Romney, make sure so you can see what’s coming. Some masks limit peripheral vision, so much so that you may end up being the thing that goes bump in the night.  But before you decide to skip the mask in favor of  makeup, don’t forget this has its own hazards too.  Sure, well-applied makeup can transform seven the most perfect skin into ghoulish festering  wounds, warts and scars, but it can also leave a rash that lingers into November. The FDA suggests testing the makeup on a small patch of skin a couple of days before using it on your face. And check out the agency’s list of approved makeup additives. If the makeup contains unapproved ingredients, toss it.

Finally don’t get tricked by your treats! The FDA recommends that children have their Halloween loot  inspected by an adult who can remove risky treats and anything that isn’t commercially wrapped. If you’re not sure what it is – get rid of it.

Whatever you do, please stay safe out there this Halloween.