The type 2 diabetes drug metformin could reduce the risk of glaucoma, according to new research.
The 10-year study, conducted by researchers from the University of Michiga, found that people who take metformin are on average 25 per cent less likely to develop open-angle glaucoma, a disease that damages eyesight.
Glaucoma is a fairly common diabetic complication, developing as a result of diabetic retinopathy. It is caused by excess fluid pressing against the nerve at the back of the eye.
The researchers gathered 150,016 participants with diabetes for the study, 5,893 of whom developed open-angle glaucoma. Over the 10 years, the researchers recorded the percentage of participants who filled out at least one prescription for a number of diabetes medication:
Metformin – 40 per cent
Sulfonylurea – 31 per cent
Thiazolidinedione – 23 per cent
Meglitinide – 2.4 per cent
Insulin – 22.6 per cent
The researchers found a 25 per cent reduction in the risk of open-angle glaucoma in those participants who were prescribed the most metformin – 1,110 grams in two years. Moreover, for every one gram increase in metformin prescription, the researchers recorded a 0.16 per cent reduction in the risk of open-angle glaucoma.
“Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness worldwide and classic open-angle glaucoma develops in late middle age of late age,” said lead researchers Julia Richards, professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Michigan.
“So we hypothesised that a drug that mimics caloric restrictio, such as metformin, might reduce the risk of glaucoma.”
Richards suggested that the glaucoma-preventing benefits of metformin might not be limited to people with diabetes. An adapted form of the drug could lead to new, effective treatments for glaucoma in the general population.
“But since this study was done in a diabetic population, the conclusions are currently limited to this population. Further work, such as a clinical trial, would be needed to tell if this could be extended to non-diabetic populations or used to prevent progression of glaucoma in those who already have the disease.”

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