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  • ADHD Medications and Glaucoma Risk

    Reviewed By Shivani S Kamat, MD
    Published Jun. 18, 2024

    Some medications increase your risk of glaucoma by raising your eye pressure. Should medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) be added to this list?

    A new study found no evidence that ADHD drugs actually cause glaucoma. But the study did uncover a possible link between ADHD medications, including both stimulant and non-stimulant drugs, and the risk of developing glaucoma.

    What does this mean? If you’re taking medicine for ADHD, continue doing so. There is no need for alarm. Experts agree that much more information is needed before we can act on these results.

    Do ADHD Drugs Increase Glaucoma Risk?

    Researchers tackled this question by looking at healthcare claims from 240,257 people who started using an ADHD drug – either methylphenidate (such as Ritalin), amphetamines (such as Adderall), or atomoxetine (such as Strattera) – between 2010 and 2020.

    They found that people who used methylphenidate were slightly (1.2 times) more likely than others to develop the most common form of glaucoma, called open angle glaucoma. People who used amphetamines or atomoxetine were more than twice as likely than others to develop angle closure glaucoma.

    But just because these two things happen together doesn’t mean one caused the other. It is not clear how ADHD drugs relate to glaucoma risk.

    “Although the study raises some interesting questions about the possible link between glaucoma and ADHD drugs, correlation is not the same as causality,” says Academy member Shivani Kamat, MD, an ophthalmologist specializing in glaucoma at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

    There are many important factors that this study did not consider. Because the study looked at existing healthcare information, it’s possible that the risk of glaucoma was influenced by other unrelated factors. Also, the researchers did not look at the amount of medication taken by each patient. More studies are needed to examine how ADHD drugs influence glaucoma risk.

    ADHD Drugs May Increase Eye Pressure in Some People

    ADHD medications may cause your pupils to dilate. This dilation can potentially raise eye pressure in people whose eyes drain aqueous fluid through an especially narrow passage, known as a “narrow angle.”

    But for people who have a healthy angle, “it’s not clear if ADHD medications could lead to glaucoma,” she said. “The only way to know if you are at risk for glaucoma is to have a comprehensive examination by an ophthalmologist.”

    If You Take ADHD Medication, Don’t Stop

    If you’re taking prescribed ADHD medications, do not stop your treatment because of these results. 

    Ask your eye doctor if you have any risk factors for glaucoma. It’s also a good idea to schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye exam to check for early signs of glaucoma.

    Patients With Glaucoma Should Ask Their Ophthalmologist

    If you have glaucoma, you should already have regular follow-up appointments with your ophthalmologist.

    Many medications can increase the risk of glaucoma. So be sure to tell your doctors about all of the medications you are taking, as well as any medications you are planning to start.

    Your doctors will determine if any of these medications could put your eyesight at risk.

    Should Children Continue Taking ADHD Medications?

    This study only looked at adults. It is not known whether ADHD medications increase the risk of glaucoma in children.

    Remember: If you’re unsure whether a drug is safe, reach out to your ophthalmologist or prescribing physician for guidance.