Glaucoma is a family of diseases that damages the optic nerve and can lead to progressive, irreversible vision loss. Affecting over 3 million Americans, glaucoma is the second-leading cause of blindness. This eye disease is complicated because it usually has no warning signs or symptoms. If glaucoma is not diagnosed and treated in the early stages, it can lead to permanent vision impairment.
If you are not familiar with this disease, you may be wondering what causes glaucoma. There are many answers to this question, but one of the most significant risk factors is family history. The most common form of glaucoma is called primary open-angle glaucoma, which accounts for about 80 percent of glaucoma cases. If members of your family have primary open-angle glaucoma, it could increase your risk by four to nine times.
Other risk factors include:
- Age- If you are over 40 years of age, you are more likely to develop glaucoma.
- Racial or ethnic heritage- African American and Latino populations are at higher risk for glaucoma than Caucasians.
- Medical conditions- Specific conditions like diabetes, hypertension, nearsightedness, farsightedness, eye injury, or eye tumor can place you in a high risk category.
Everyone is at risk for developing glaucoma, but you may be at increased risk due to family history or other risk factors. There is no cure for glaucoma, and there is no way to ensure that you will never develop the disease. However, there are two steps that you can take to build a strong defense against glaucoma:
- Take our Glaucoma Risk Assessment. In less than 60 seconds, this short quiz can give you an indication of whether you are at significant risk for developing glaucoma.
- Schedule a comprehensive eye exam. The best defense against glaucoma is staying current with your eye exams. If you are making routine visits to your ophthalmologist, any eye disease that you develop can be diagnosed in the early stages. This will prevent vision loss and keep your eyesight clear and healthy.
After you follow these two steps, talk to your family members about the results of your quiz and eye exam and challenge them to do the same. Maintaining vision health is a group effort that requires participation from everyone. Thank you for doing your part during Glaucoma Awareness Month!