To determine the effect of the menstrual cycle on optic nerve head topographic analysis in normally menstruating, healthy women. The study included single eyes selected randomly from each of 52 healthy women with regular menstrual cycles. All subjects underwent a complete ocular examination. Optic nerve head topographic analyses were performed using a confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscope, the Heidelberg Retinal Tomograph II (HRT II, software version 1.6). The analyses were repeated three times during the menstrual cycle: in the follicular phase (days 7-10 of the cycle), at ovulation, and in the late luteal phase (days 1-3 before menstrual bleeding). Serum oestradiol, progesterone and luteinizing hormone levels were measured at each menstrual phase. Fourteen subjects were excluded from the study. The mean age of the subjects (n = 38) was 25.6 +/- 3.7 years (range 21-34 years). Blood oestradiol levels were significantly lower in the late luteal phase (35.8 pg/ml) (p < 0.0001). The mean disc area of the subjects was 1.94 +/- 0.33 mm(2). The neuroretinal rim area decreased significantly during the luteal phase (p < 0.001). However, the linear cup : disc ratio, cup : disc area ratio and the cup area were significantly higher during the luteal phase (p < 0.001). These observations raise the possibility that sex hormone fluctuations which occur during a normal menstrual cycle in healthy women significantly alter neuroretinal rim area and cup variables of the optic nerve head. These findings should be taken into consideration in the clinical follow-up of young women with glaucoma.

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