Glaucoma and Family History

family history, glaucoma

Everyone is at risk for glaucoma however those with a family history of glaucoma need to be especially careful.  Studies have found that open-angle glaucoma, which accounts for 90 percent of glaucoma cases, is part hereditary.  If members of your family have glaucoma, you at a higher risk than the rest of the population.  Family history increases risk of glaucoma four to nine times.

Glaucoma is a disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve.  The optic nerve is connected to the retina – a layer of light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye – and is made up of many nerve fibers, like an electric cable is made up of many wires.  It is the optic nerve that sends signals from your retina to your brain, where these signals are interpreted as the images you see. (Source: geteyesmart.org)

Glaucoma is actually a group of diseases and is defined as a having a few different types:

Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma, affecting approximately three million Americans.  This happens when the eye’s drainage canals become clogged over time.  Most affected people have no symptoms or warning signs.  If not treated, open-angle glaucoma can cause a gradual loss of vision.  This type of glaucoma usually responds well to medication, especially if caught early and treated.

Angle-Closure Glaucoma is also known as acute glaucoma or narrow angle glaucoma.  This type of glaucoma is rare and different from open-angle glaucoma in that the eye pressure rises very quickly.  Symptoms may include headaches, eye pain, nausea, rainbows around lights at night and very blurred vision.  Treatment usually involves laser or conventional surgery to remove a small portion of the outer edge of the iris.

Normal-Tension Glaucoma also called low-tension or normal-pressure glaucoma, in normal-tension glaucoma the optic nerve is damaged even though the pressure in the eye is not very high.  The causes of normal-tension glaucoma are still unknown.  Research is still being conducted to examine why some nerves are damaged despite low pressure eye levels.  Treatment for this form of glaucoma can involve using medications, laser treatments and conventional surgery.

Other Types of Glaucoma are variations of open-angle or angle- closure types and can occur in one or both of your eyes.  Some of these types include secondary glaucoma, pigmentary glaucoma and neovascular glaucoma among others.

Family History

If your family has a history of glaucoma, speak to your eye doctor and continue with regular yearly eye exams.  Although you are not likely to notice any symptoms of glaucoma until the disease has progressed significantly, an eye doctor can identify glaucoma before significant damage occurs. (Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine)