erectile dysfunctionA recent study published in the journal Ophthalmology (January 2012) revealed that men diagnosed with erectile dysfunction are three times more likely to suffer from open angle glaucoma. The study was conducted among 4605 men by researchers in the Division of Urology at the Far Eastern Memorial Hospital of Taiwan.

The researchers theorize that a similar molecular abnormality occurs in erectile dysfunction and glaucoma. Endothelium lines the small arteries found in the penis, the retina of the eye, as well the heart, brain, kidney and the peripheral extremities. Chronic inflammation in the endothelium results to thickening, stiffness, reduced blood flow and blockage of the arteries which is the culprit of strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure, and erectile dysfunction.

Although there has long been a strong relationship between erectile dysfunction and other diseases such as diabetes, hyperlipidemia, obesity and cardiovascular diseases, this is the first time that a strong link was found with glaucoma. Diabetes for example, is twice as frequent in men with ED.  People with diabetes are also at risk for developing glaucoma and visual loss.

Medical experts also believe that the common pathologic thread in metabolic conditions such as diabetes, hyperlipedemia, erectile dysfunction and glaucoma is biochemical damage to the microvasculature by chemical compounds such as nitric oxide and reactive oxygen free radicals.

Nitric oxide (NO) is a chemical messenger that relaxes the smooth muscles lining the endothelium and is responsible for increasing blood flow. In the case of erectile dysfunction, less than normal circulating levels of nitric oxide cause the penis to become flaccid. On the other hand, an excess of NO is believed to be a culprit in the chronic cellular damage in the retinal ganglion cells found in the eyes of glaucoma patients.

High levels of sugar and lipids are also believed to trigger a cascade of molecular injury to the vascular endothelium of organs such as the heart, kidney, penis and retina. Toxic oxygen compounds are produced by specialized cells in response to perceived threats to the body. High levels of reactive oxygen molecules found in these diseased organs, then causes inflammation and eventual organ damage.

Erectile dysfunction is known to be associated with other medical conditions.  This study suggests that glaucoma can now be added to the list. With these findings, eye specialists may have to be more alert to the use of erectile dysfunction medications in their patients.

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, or have erectile abnormalities, a glaucoma check is therefore a good idea. Prompt diagnosis has been a boon for most cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. In the same way that excellent medicines have proven to reverse symptoms of ED and diabetes if treated early, so can open angle glaucoma be arrested before blindness or visual impairment sets in.


1. Shiu-Dong Chung, Chao-Chien Hu, Jau-Der Ho, Joseph J. Keller, Tsung-Jen Wang, Herng-Ching LinOpen-Angle Glaucoma and the Risk of Erectile Dysfunction: Ophthalmology
Volume 119, Issue 2 , Pages 289-293, February 2012

2. Davies KP, Melman A. Markers of erectile dysfunction. Indian J Urol 2008;24:320-8

3. Neufield HA. Nitric Oxide A Potential Mediator of Retinal Ganglion Cell Damage in Glaucoma. Survey of Ophthalmology Volume 43, Supplement 1 , Pages S129-S135, June 1999

Don’t delay getting checked for glaucoma.

Make an appointment with an eye doctor in your area now.  If you live in the greater Los Angeles area and would like Dr. Richardson to evaluate your eyes for glaucoma call 626-289-7856 now. No referral required. Appointments are available, Tuesday through Saturday.

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