Open-angle glaucoma patients may be at greater risk of developing some, but not all, neurodegenerative conditions, such as senile dementia and mild cognitive impairment, compared with healthy individuals, a study in Ophthalmology Glaucoma reports.

Researchers from Duke University found a negative correlation between open-angle glaucoma and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which they attributed to limited life expectancy and physical limitations in ALS patients. The investigation also reported a weak negative correlation between open-angle glaucoma and Alzheimer’s disease, but no correlation with Parkinson’s disease or vascular dementia.

The study enrolled individuals over 18 who visited Duke University Health System between 2000 and 2015. The investigators reviewed records of individuals with and without diagnoses of open-angle glaucoma, ALS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, vascular dementia, senile dementia, mild cognitive impairment, frontotemporal dementia, Pick’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies and other degenerative diseases of the nervous system. The study also considered age, race and gender and compared the odds of each neurodegenerative disease in patients with open-angle glaucoma compared with control patients.

More than 1.5 million patients were included in the study; 24,892 open-angle glaucoma patients and 1,484,790 controls. Open-angle glaucoma patients were about 59 years old, and the healthy patients were approximately 45.

After adjusting for age, race and gender, the adjusted odds ratio of each neurodegenerative disease in an open-angle glaucoma patient vs. controls were: Alzheimer’s disease, 0.84; ALS, 0.28; Parkinson’s disease, 1.00; vascular dementia, 1.11; senile dementia, 1.30; mild cognitive impairment, 2.00; and other neurodegenerative disease, 1.79.

Further work is necessary to identify potential causal relationships, the researchers noted.

Umunakwe O, Gupta D, Tseng H. Association of open-angle glaucoma with non-Alzheimer’s dementia and cognitive impairment. Ophthalmology Glaucoma. June 30, 2020. [Epub ahead of print].