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Metformin May Reduce the Risk of Developing Glaucoma

Patients taking metformin during a 10-year study had a 25% reduced risk of developing glaucoma…

The researchers hypothesized that a drug that mimics caloric restriction, such as metformin, might reduce the risk of glaucoma, said Julia Richards, lead researcher and ophthalmology professor at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor.

Richards and fellow researchers looked at data on over 150,000 people with diabetes all of whom were at least 40 years of age during the study’s initiation ten years prior. Overall, 4% of the participants developed glaucoma and interestingly patients taking the highest doses (>1,110g in two years) had a 25% reduction in their risk of developing glaucoma compared to those not taking metformin at all.

Researchers found that taking the standard dose of 2g/day over the course of two years resulted in a 21% decrease in their risk of developing glaucoma which was also true after accounting for reduced blood glucose levels. The mechanism by which metformin may reduce this risk is not yet known.

Richards believes that after further research it may be possible to use metformin in non-diabetic patients. This study was not intended to find a cause and effect relationship, but to see if an association between the use of metformin and reduction in the risk of developing glaucoma exists.

Practice Pearls:

  • A new study shows that metformin can result in a reduced risk of developing glaucoma by as much as 25% in diabetic patients.
  • It is not yet understood what the mechanism of this association is.
  • Further research consisting of a clinical trial can shed light on whether or not metformin could be considered in the non-diabetic population and to even potentially slow progression in those who currently have glaucoma.

Hsien-Chang Lin. Association of Geroprotective Effects of Metformin and Risk of Open-Angle Glaucoma in Persons With Diabetes Mellitus. JAMA Ophthalmol. Published online May 28, 2015. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2015.1440