Campus & Community

Hormone replacement lowers risk of degenerative eye disease

2 min read

Postmenopausal women who have taken hormone replacement therapy in the past were 50 percent less likely to develop the blinding disease related to advanced age called maculopathy (ARM), as compared with women who never used hormone therapy.

A study in this month’s issue of the American Journal of Ophthalmology shows that postmenopausal hormone therapy may reduce the risk of having advanced ARM among women with signs of maculopathy.

“Decisions regarding postmenopausal hormone therapies are becoming increasingly complex, and it is important to evaluate their effects, including testing their relationship to eye diseases of aging,” said lead author Johanna M. Seddon, director of the Epidemiology Unit at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and associate professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School.

Results of this study were derived from two ongoing programs conducted by Seddon at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary: the Progression Study of Macular Degeneration and the Registry Study of Macular Degeneration. There were 394 women in the study, age 50 to 78 with early to late (advanced) maculopathy. The study compared the progression of the disease in women who reported taking postmenopausal hormone therapy in the past as compared with women who never used hormone therapy.

“Few therapeutic or preventive measures exist for ARM, therefore, these results deserve further evaluation. We have added a sight exam to the Women’s Health Initiative, a national randomized trial evaluating postmenopausal therapy, to test this hypothesis,” said Seddon.

ARM is a degenerative eye disease that affects the macula, which is responsible for central vision, which is necessary for reading, driving and recognizing people’s faces. Advanced ARM is the leading cause of irreversible blindness among elderly individuals worldwide. Approximately 1.7 million people have decreased vision due to ARM, and 200,000 people develop advanced ARM with visual loss each year.