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Professor David Mackey & Dr Samantha Sze-Yee Lee
August 2021

While glaucoma seems to be a problem that only affects your eye, there are some health conditions that are more common in people with glaucoma. In the Glaucoma Inheritance Study in Tasmania, we noted that people with glaucoma are more likely to have ischemic heart disease (heart problems involving reduced blood flow to the heart) than those in the general population.

Image of woman sitting down and talking with doctor

We examined over 2,000 people with glaucoma in this study. We found that those with a family history of glaucoma were 67% more likely to have migraines and 42% more likely to have artherosclerosis, a hardening of the blood vessels because of a build-up of fats, cholesterol, and other substances and restricts blood flow.

It is unclear what links glaucoma to either of these conditions. One of the theories is that reduced blood flow may increase the risk of ischemic heart disease, migraines, artherosclerosis and glaucoma all at the same time. It could also be that these conditions may share one or more common genes, where a mutation of those genes then increases the risk of all these conditions. This may also tie in with the association between better cardiovascular fitness and glaucoma as discussed above. However, more research is required to understand this better.

Article by Professor David Mackey
Ophthalmologist
Genetics and Epidemiology Group at the Lions Eye Institute, Centre for Ophthalmology and Visual Science, University of Western Australia.
Article by Dr Samantha Sze-Yee Lee
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Genetics and Epidemiology Group at the Lions Eye Institute, Centre for Ophthalmology and Visual Science, University of Western Australia.