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Your pet may increase your glaucoma risk


A recent study published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, found that exposure to cats and cockroaches may increase the risk for glaucoma, while contact with dogs could help guard against the disease.

Los Angeles-A recent study published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, found that exposure to cats and cockroaches may increase the risk for glaucoma, while contact with dogs could help guard against the disease.

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, analyzed data from 1,678 participants from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES). The participants underwent allergy testing for cats, dogs, cockroaches, rodents, and dust mites. Researchers also noted any use of steroids.

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The study found that people with glaucoma-who consisted of 5.1 percent of the study’s participants-had significantly higher levels of the allergic antibody immunoglobulin E (IgE) to cats and cockroaches (although elevated IgE levels do not mean a person has an allergy).

Of the participants who were diagnosed with glaucoma, 14.3 percent had significantly elevated IgE levels to cats and 19.1 percent to cockroaches. In comparison, 10 percent of the participants without glaucoma had elevated IgE levels to either cats or cockroaches.

Next: A win for dog people 


A win for dog people

The study also found that the levels of IgE to dog allergens were elevated in 6 percent of glaucoma patients but in 9.2 percent of participants without glaucoma.

The allergens from cats and cockroaches may have biochemical or physical properties that trigger antibodies targeting the optic nerve, according to the study. Dogs spend more time outdoors, which may explain why dog allergens may behave differently, the researchers say. 

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IgE levels are elevated in several immunological disorders, and researchers say this study’s results raise the possibility that the immune system plays a role in glaucoma.

Next: Should your patients kick Fluffy to the curb?


Should your patients kick Fluffy to the curb?*

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member Mohammad Rafieetary, OD, FAAO, says the study’s findings are very interesting, but agrees with the authors that the findings will need additional evaluation and scrutiny.  

“I am doubtful any clinical practice pattern changes will be made based on these findings,” says Dr. Rafieetary. “Nevertheless, when possible avoidance of environmental allergens, particularly those by pests such as cockroaches and mites will be beneficial for many health conditions, for example asthma.”

Optometry Times Editorial Advisory Board member Ben Casella, OD, FAAO, agreed that it was an interesting study.

“I must admit, I was intrigued by this paper,” he says. “A relationship of immunoglobulins to glaucoma would more likely a correlative one rather than causal.  Of note, various types of glaucomas were not differentiated in this study.”  

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But fret not-your glaucoma treatment plan doesn’t have to include advising that your patients’ cats-or, uh, their pet cockroaches-get the boot.

“All in all, this is an interesting catalyst for more research in this area, but I don't think it's time to kick Fluffy to the curb just yet,” Dr. Casella says.

*Just kidding, of course. Optometry Times does not advocate the abandonment of your four-legged friends.


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