A recent study in the prestigious medical journal “Ophthalmology” showed a link between poor oral health and glaucoma. The study found that those who had lost a tooth in the last 2 years had a 45% increased risk for developing glaucoma. Even worse numbers were found for those who had lost a tooth in the last 2 years and still had active periodontal disease. Those in that group had an 85% increased risk for developing glaucoma.
What can explain this surprising finding? With poor oral health there is a decrease in the blood flow to the affected area which may also alter the blood flow the eyes, obviously located nearby. With treatment of periodontal disease the blood flow to the jaw area increases back to normal. Then presumably it also does so to the eyes. Treatment for periodontal disease has been shown to decrease glaucoma risk back to the normal incidence of 1% of the population.
Many patients are “doctor avoiders” and I suspect that those same people are also “dentist avoiders.” If this sounds like you or someone you know, bring this important study to their attention. We have long known that poor oral health is associated with heart disease, stroke, respiratory problems, dementia and diabetes. Now you can add eye health to the equation.
The type of glaucoma associated with periodontal disease is the more common “open angle” type which is generally treated with eye drops. It can only be diagnosed with a dilated eye examination. We need to measure your eye pressure and then get a good look at your optic nerve in the back of the eye. If either appear abnormal, then extra testing may be required. The key is early detection because once you lose vision from this condition we can only arrest the loss, not bring back what is gone.
For better health remember to brush, floss and visit both your dentist and eye doctor regularly!
Dr. Martha Jay is a board certified Ophthalmologist (Eye Physician & Surgeon) specializing in medical and surgical eye care such as small incision cataract surgery and LASIK Vision Correction. She practices at Lakeshore Eye Care Professionals with Drs. Mark German and James Ivanoski with offices in Mequon & Saukville, Wisconsin.
For more eye care information, call 262-241-1919 or visit www.LakeShoreVision.com.