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29 May 2024

New study suggests ADHD medication linked with risk of glaucoma

Mature man testing out new glasses in ophthalmology clinic

A recent study suggests that some common attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications might increase the risk of glaucoma. This finding is important for the millions of people who use medications like atomoxetine, methylphenidate, and amphetamines.

ADHD is often treated with these drugs because they help manage symptoms effectively. However, they are not recommended for people with a history of primary angle closure glaucoma (PACG) because of their effects on the body. This study, published in the journal Eye, looked into whether these medications could also be linked to a higher risk of both PACG and primary open angle glaucoma (POAG).

The researchers used a large database to follow 240,257 new users of these ADHD medications. They tracked these patients until they were diagnosed with either PACG or POAG or until the study period ended. Each person taking ADHD medication was compared to four other people of the same age who did not take ADHD medication. The researchers used statistical methods to account for other factors that could influence the results.

The results suggest that people who regularly use atomoxetine and amphetamines might have a higher risk of developing PACG. For atomoxetine users, the risk was about 2.5 times higher, and for amphetamine users, it was about 2.3 times higher compared to non-users. Methylphenidate users had a slightly higher risk of developing POAG, with a 1.2 times increase compared to non-users.

The study authors said, “Given the prevalence of ADHD medication use (medically and recreationally), further studies are needed to confirm our findings and investigate associations of ADHD medication use and glaucoma.”

They also said that the results simply suggest a potential link, and emphasised that the results do not constitute a major public health issue at present.

The study did not look into how the medications affect patient outcomes, such as how advanced sight loss becomes, once glaucoma is diagnosed, so it is worth noting that no action is needed if you already have glaucoma and take drugs for ADHD.

More research is required to better understand the impacts of ADHD medications on eye health. If you have any concerns about your own treatment or any medication you are taking for either ADHD or glaucoma, it is always best to discuss these concerns with your doctor. Our glaucoma helpline is also available to offer advice and support, and can be reached on 01233 64 81 70 or helpline@glaucoma.uk.

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