FSRH statement: FSRH response to new study on hormonal contraceptive use and glaucoma
Date: 23 Jun 2021
Type: FSRH Press Releases and Statements
A new study published on the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology investigated the association between hormonal contraceptive use and the incidence of glaucoma in females of reproductive age. It demonstrated an elevated risk, albeit low, of glaucoma in females of reproductive age who use regular hormonal contraception, concluding that future studies are needed to confirm these findings.
Dr Sarah Hardman, Director of the Clinical Effectiveness Unit of the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH), said:
“In a study like this, we don’t have information about all the factors that might contribute to the development of glaucoma – these might differ between individuals that used or did not use hormonal contraception and lead to a confounding variable: it is difficult to be certain that the effect seen is caused by the contraception rather than by other unmeasured factors. The results of other studies on this subject have been inconsistent, with some suggesting increased risk of glaucoma and some indicating no increase. The data are too limited for us to draw definite conclusions as to the relative effects that different hormonal contraceptives might have on risk of glaucoma, thus we can’t make any recommendation as to which contraceptive method to use to minimise glaucoma risk.
"It is possible, however, that use of hormonal contraception does genuinely increase glaucoma risk. The incidence of glaucoma in women of reproductive age is extremely small – in the sample of almost 5 million women in this study, only 2366 cases of glaucoma were observed – that is <0.05% of the population. This means that even if the risk was doubled by use of hormonal contraception, the chances of an individual developing glaucoma would still remain very small.
"Any small increase in glaucoma risk would have to be weighed against the very significant benefit of achieving effective contraception to avoid unplanned pregnancy and non-contraceptive benefits such as management of heavy menstrual bleeding.”
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Notes to Editors
- The study can be found here
- A clinical statement by FSRH’s Clinical Effectiveness Unit can be found here
The Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH) is the largest UK professional membership organisation working at the heart of sexual and reproductive health (SRH), supporting healthcare professionals to deliver high quality care. It works with its 15,000 members, to shape sexual reproductive health for all. It produces evidence-based clinical guidance, standards, training, qualifications and research into SRH. It also delivers conferences and publishes the journal BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health in partnership with the BMJ.