Those who consume alcohol on a regular basis may be at greater risk of developing glaucoma, study shows. Photo: Stanislav Ivanitskiy on Unsplash. Click image to enlarge.

Alcohol has been shown to be a modifiable risk factor in a number of ocular diseases, and recent research suggests glaucoma may be one of them. A team of researchers presented their findings earlier this week on the association between alcohol consumption and glaucoma traits at the ARVO 2022 meeting in Denver. They discovered that the two are directly associated, suggesting that those with or at risk for glaucoma may benefit from reducing their alcohol consumption.

The cross-sectional, observational study included UK Biobank participants 39 to 72 years old who had data on intraocular pressure (IOP) (n=109,097), inner retinal OCT measurements (n=46,414) and glaucoma (n=173,734). Participants were categorized as either never/infrequent or regular drinkers based on their self-reported drinking behaviors. The researchers then compared ocular parameters between the two groups.

They found that the group of regular drinkers had a higher IOP than never/infrequent drinkers (+0.15mm Hg). The team also noted non-significant trends in the regular drinker group toward a thinner retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL), thinner ganglion cell-inner plexiform layer and higher odds of glaucoma. Even those who self-identified as former drinkers had higher odds of developing glaucoma (odds ratio: 1.44).

“In regular drinkers, alcohol intake was associated with all outcomes in a dose-dependent manner,” the researchers explained in their abstract. “Compared with the lowest alcohol intake quintile (median: 17g/week), participants in the highest quintile (median: 278g/week) had higher IOP (+0.26mm Hg), thinner RNFL (-0.41µm), thinner ganglion cell-inner plexiform layer (-0.81µm) and higher odds of glaucoma.” They also noted that there appeared to be a potential threshold effect at approximately 50g/week for RNFL, ganglion cell-inner plexiform layer and glaucoma.

If further studies can confirm that a causal relationship does exist, it may prove beneficial to advise glaucoma patients and those at increased risk to be cognizant of their alcohol intake and aware of its potential effects on disease development.

Original abstract content © Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology 2022.

Stuart K, Luben R, Warwick A, et al. Association of alcohol consumption with glaucoma and related traits. ARVO 2022 annual meeting.