Lay off the sauce, and you may develop vision loss, according to a poster presented at this years Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) meeting. The poster showed that high alcohol consumption may be linked with a reduced risk of primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG).

Researchers in Boston followed 80,486 female nurses from 1980 through 1986 and 42,251 male health-care workers from 1986 through 2002. All participants were at least age 40 and without POAG at baseline. Researchers assessed participants risk factors for POAG and alcohol consumption with biennial questionnaires, and patients received eye exams over the course of the study.

During this time, 856 patients had a confirmed POAG diagnosis. Specifically, 184 participants who did not consume alcohol were diagnosed with glaucoma. Also, 450 participants who drank 1g to 9g of alcohol per day, 123 participants who drank 10g to 19g per day, 48 participants who drank 20g to 29g per day, and 42 participants who drank more than 30g (i.e., one shot of liquor, one glass of wine or one bottle of beer) per day were diagnosed with glaucoma.

After controlling for age, race, hypertension, body mass index, physical activity, type 2 diabetes mellitus, smoking and family history of glaucoma, those who consumed more than one drink a day had a 0.70 relative risk of developing glaucoma vs. a 1.00 relative risk for those who did not drink any alcohol. Researchers found no differences in POAG risk according to the type of alcohol consumed.

Low to moderate alcohol consumption does not influence the risk of POAG, but high alcohol consumption may be associated with a reduced risk of glaucoma, the authors concluded.

However, they say, consuming high levels of alcohol must be balanced against the potential health dangers of drinking too much. In fact, the level of alcohol consumption associated with a reduced glaucoma risk ... is definitely not recommended.

Pasquale LR, Hankinson SE, Willett WC, et al. Prospective study of alcohol consumption and risk of primary open-angle glaucoma. Poster presented at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology 2006 meeting. Abstract 3440/B973. Presented May 2, 2006.

Vol. No: 143:06Issue: 6/15/2006