Glaucoma and Erectile Dysfunction

[18/02/2012]

Glaucoma and Erectile Dysfunction



You may be wondering how can the two possibly be linked but the latest study has shown an association in men with erectile dysfunction (impotence) and glaucoma!

This was research originating in Taiwan whereby a population study of over 4600 men with erectile dysfunction was carried out. What they have found is that men with erectile dysfunction (ED) have a 3 fold increase risk for also having open angle glaucoma. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22036631)

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a disease which affects the optic nerve and is associated with raised pressure inside the eye. If the pressure is uncontrolled, there will be progressive damage to the nerve and eventually lead to blindness. There are many types of glaucoma but by and large, two main categories are described - Open Angle or Narrow Angle glaucoma. In open angle glaucoma, the drainage site within the eye is "open" (i.e. not obstructed) and the build up of pressure is secondary to an imbalance between production and drainage of fluid - the drainage channels (cells) not functioning properly. In narrow angle glaucoma however, the drainage site itself is "narrow" and there is obstruction to outflow. It is the former that erectile dysfunction is associated with.

Symptoms of glaucoma

Glaucoma is usually slowly progressive and symptoms don't show up until late. Hence, it has the name "The Silent Thief of Sight".



It is therefore, important to be screened regularly by an ophthalmologist especially if over the age of 50 years old.

What is the impact of this study?

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a bit of a taboo subject with the men - particularly in this part of the world. There isn't quite enough patient education about this condition and the treatment options available to the men are not well known so many affected individuals "suffer in silence".

Men are traditionally much worse than their female counterparts at seeking out help particularly when it pertains to medical matters. What more if the problem is of such a sensitive nature such as erectile dysfunction! Little do the men know that there are a lot of causes of ED and the psychological causes are but one gamut of reasons. Do you know that vascular problems like hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, heart disease, diabetes are responsible for over 50% of men with ED? Treatment of these conditions will then "treat" the ED.

The results of this recent study have to be taken into context - this study was undertaken by looking at databases to extract information so some bias may be involved. These individuals with ED were also found to have other vascular conditions such as hypertension, diabetes or high cholesterol and they were on medications as well. We are uncertain of the effects of medications on ED or glaucoma and we cannot rule out the possibility that an association was found purely because these individuals have other medical problems and therefore, visited the doctor more often and would more likely have their glaucoma picked up.

It is possible that the 2 conditions are linked as there has been evidence to suggest that they share similar underlying mechanisms. Like I mentioned above, vascular (blood vessels) problems can cause ED and similarly, problems with blood flow and control of vascular tone has a role in development of glaucoma.

Nevertheless, this is an interesting finding and more research would need to be carried out to examine this association between glaucoma and erectile dysfunction thoroughly.