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Cocaine Increases Risks for Future Glaucoma

Need a good reason to stop using cocaine? How about this – researchers at the Veterans Health Administration say that using cocaine increases your risks of glaucoma by 45% and accelerates the age of onset by about 20 years.

Open angle glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness and it's a disease which is rarely symptomatic until late stages of disease progression. Researchers at the VA wondered what environmental factors might play a role in increasing a person’s susceptibility for the disease and to find out, they made use of their enormous pool of data; sourcing information from the 5.3 million people who had used VA outpatient clinics within a 12 month period.

Surprisingly, they found that past and present cocaine use correlated very highly with an increased likelihood of developing open angle glaucoma (the most prevalent type of glaucoma). They found that:

  • Past and present cocaine users were 45% more likely to develop open angle glaucoma than non cocaine users
  • Past and present drug users who developed glaucoma contracted the disease on average some 20 years earlier than those with glaucoma who had never used illegal drugs (54 versus 73)
  • Of the 5.3 million veterans who used outpatient health services over a 12 month period, 83 000 had glaucoma


The researchers say that if further research confirms these very strong correlation links then cocaine abuse is very likely one of the few modifiable risk factors for the development of glaucoma later in life.

The full research results can be found in the September 2011 edition of Journal of Glaucoma.

Indiana University School of Medicine (2011, September 30). Cocaine users have 45 percent increased risk of glaucoma

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