Purpose: A recent report has suggested that nitrate therapy may delay the progression of glaucomatous damage. To investigate the mechanism that may mediate this effect, we sought to determine whether nitrate therapy is associated with retinal vasodilatation in patients with glaucoma.
Methods: Retinal venous and arterial diameters were determined from color fundus photographs of the optic nerve head obtained during a retrospective study designed to investigate any potential effects of chronic nitrate treatment on the progression of glaucomatous pathology. Fourteen eyes of 14 patients who were receiving chronic nitrate therapy for systemic diseases unrelated to glaucoma were randomly selected. Vascular measurements were compared with those of 15 eyes of 15 control patients with glaucoma who did not receive any nitrate therapy.
Results: In comparison with control patients, nitrate-treated patients showed significant average vasodilatation of 17% (P = .008) and 13% (P = .01) in the superior and inferior temporal retinal veins, respectively. A 5% increase in average retinal arterial diameter was also detected, but this was not statistically significant.
Conclusion: Chronic nitrate treatment is associated with retinal venous dilatation in patients with glaucoma. Although not assessed in this study, it is possible that a protective effect of nitrates may be mediated by a vasoactive effect leading to improved perfusion of the retina and perhaps the optic nerve head, in a similar fashion to what has been observed in the circulation of the heart. Additional studies of the effect of nitrates on the ocular circulation are needed, however, to support this speculation.