Higher prevalence of glaucoma in women: what is causing it?

25th January 2018 (Last Updated August 9th, 2019 09:37)

Glaucoma is a common, asymptomatic group of eye diseases that causes damage to the eye’s optic nerve, resulting in progressive, irreversible vision loss. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide, especially in elderly people. Glaucoma is generally categorized as open-angle glaucoma (OAG), angle-closure glaucoma (ACG), or secondary glaucoma (SG).

Figure 1: 7MM, sex-specific total prevalent cases of POAG, both sexes, ages ≥ 40 years, N, 2016. Credit: GlobalData.

Glaucoma is a common, asymptomatic group of eye diseases that causes damage to the eye’s optic nerve, resulting in progressive, irreversible vision loss. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide, especially in elderly people. Glaucoma is generally categorized as open-angle glaucoma (OAG), angle-closure glaucoma (ACG), or secondary glaucoma (SG).

OAG and ACG can be classified as primary glaucoma, specifically primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) or primary angle-closure glaucoma (PACG), or as SG, depending on the cause. OAG accounts for approximately 80–90% of all glaucoma cases. Glaucoma appears to be more common in women.

GlobalData epidemiologists forecast that the total prevalent cases of POAG in the seven major markets (7MM: US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK, and Japan) will increase from 7,224,135 cases in 2016 to 8,549,547 cases in 2026, at an Annual Growth Rate (AGR) of 1.83%. GlobalData forecasts that all 7MM will see an increase in the total prevalent cases and diagnosed prevalent cases of POAG during the forecast period.

Figure 1 presents the sex-specific total prevalent cases of POAG in men and women, ages 40 years and older, in the 7MM for 2016. In the 7MM, women made up majority of the total prevalent cases of POAG in 2016, with 4,154,123 cases, while men made up 3,070,012 cases. The total prevalent cases of women were significantly higher in the US, France, Germany, Spain, and the UK.

Current evidence suggests there is no clear gender predilection for OAG. Researchers have speculated that decreased estrogen exposure could be associated with increased risk for OAG in women, yet population-based studies have presented inconsistent results. In the absence of a strong medical explanation, GlobalData believes that the higher prevalent cases of OAG in women is related to women having a longer life expectancy, a higher female to male population ratio, or the greater health awareness and diagnosis of cases in the women.