Oestrogen, ocular function and low-level vision: a review

    1. Colin Davidson2
    1. College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 9HN, UK
      1Harvard Medical School, Center for Human Genetic Research, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02114, USA
      2Division of Biomedical Sciences, St George's Medical School, University of London, London SW17 0RE, UK
    1. Correspondence should be addressed to C V Hutchinson; Email: ch190{at}le.ac.uk


    Over the past 10 years, a literature has emerged concerning the sex steroid hormone oestrogen and its role in human vision. Herein, we review evidence that oestrogen (oestradiol) levels may significantly affect ocular function and low-level vision, particularly in older females. In doing so, we have examined a number of vision-related disorders including dry eye, cataract, increased intraocular pressure, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy. In each case, we have found oestrogen, or lack thereof, to have a role. We have also included discussion of how oestrogen-related pharmacological treatments for menopause and breast cancer can impact the pathology of the eye and a number of psychophysical aspects of vision. Finally, we have reviewed oestrogen's pharmacology and suggest potential mechanisms underlying its beneficial effects, with particular emphasis on anti-apoptotic and vascular effects.

    • Received in final form 12 August 2014
    • Accepted 20 August 2014
    • Made available online as an Accepted Preprint 20 August 2014
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