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Front. Endocrinol. | doi: 10.3389/fendo.2018.00066

Gonadal Hormones and Retinal Disorders: a Review

  • 1Department of Surgical Sciences, Università degli Studi di Torino, Italy
  • 2Department of Neuroscience Rita Levi-Montalcini, Università degli Studi di Torino, Italy
  • 3Neuroscience institute Cavaleri Ottolenghi (NICO), Italy

Aim. Gonadal hormones are essential for reproductive function but can act on neural and other organ systems, and are probably the cause of the large majority of known sex differences in function and disease. The aim of this review is to provide evidence for this hypothesis in relation to eye disorders and to retinopathies in particular.
Methods. Epidemiological studies and research articles were reviewed.
Results. Analysis of the biological basis for a relationship between eye diseases and hormones showed that estrogen, androgen, and progesterone receptors are present throughout the eye and that these steroids are locally produced in ocular tissues. Sex hormones can have a neuroprotective action on the retina and modulate ocular blood flow. There are differences between the male and the female retina; moreover, sex hormones can influence the development (or not) of certain disorders. For example, exposure to endogenous estrogens, depending on age at menarche and menopause and number of pregnancies, and exposure to exogenous estrogens, as in hormone replacement therapy and use of oral contraceptives, appear to protect against age-related macular degeneration (both drusenoid and neurovascular types), whereas exogenous testosterone therapy is a risk factor for central serous chorioretinopathy. Macular hole is more common among women than men, particularly in postmenopausal women probably owing to the sudden drop in estrogen production in later middle age. Progestin therapy appears to ameliorate the course of retinitis pigmentosa. Diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes, may be more common among men than women.
Conclusions. We observed a correlation between many retinopathies and sex, probably as a result of the protective effect some gonadal hormones may exert against the development of certain disorders. This may have ramifications for the use of hormone therapy in the treatment of eye disease, and of retinal disorders in particular.

Keywords: Gonadal Hormones, Estrogens, Eye disorders, Retinopathies, Optic Nerve, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), Hormone Replacement Therapy, gender-related differences

Received: 28 Nov 2017; Accepted: 14 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Takayoshi Ubuka, Monash University Malaysia, Malaysia

Reviewed by:

Barney A. Schlinger, University of California, Los Angeles, United States
María Miranda, Universidad CEU Cardenal Herrera, Spain  

Copyright: © 2018 Nuzzi, Scalabrin, Becco and Panzica. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Raffaele Nuzzi, Università degli Studi di Torino, Department of Surgical Sciences, Turin, Italy,