Researchers found that of nearly 4,000 older Dutch adults followed for a decade, heavier women were less likely to be diagnosed with so-called open-angle glaucoma. There was no clear link, however, between weight and glaucoma risk among men.
Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma. It arises when fluid buildup increases pressure in the eye, damaging the optic nerve that runs from the eye to the brain.
The new findings, reported in the Archives of Ophthalmology, may sound counterintuitive, since obesity would seem likely to boost pressure in the eye. And, in fact, overweight and obese women in the study did have somewhat greater pressure within the eye -- called intraocular pressure.
But the researchers speculate that there may be something protective about extra fat tissue in women -- like increased estrogen levels -- that helps lower their risk of glaucoma.
Still, no one is suggesting that women pack on extra pounds as a way to ward off glaucoma.
The best way to prevent vision loss from the disorder is to have regular eye exams and, if glaucoma is found, early treatment.