Risk Factors for Glaucoma

Most forms of glaucoma are strongly related to advancing age but there are many other factors leading to increased susceptibility. There is often a genetic component in many forms of open angle glaucoma, and those with a family history of the disease, as well as African-Americans, are at increased risk. There is currently much controversy about the contribution of other systemic diseases, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, to the development of glaucoma. Studies have shown individuals at greater risk for glaucoma often fit into one or more of the following criteria:

  • over the age of 60
  • have a family history of the disease, especially in a parent or sibling
  • have elevated intraocular pressure
  • are African-American over the age of 40
  • have diabetes or hypertension, especially long standing.
  • are nearsighted or myopic
  • have thin corneas

Individuals who possess any of the non-age-related risk factors should have regular examinations by an ophthalmologist every one or two years. Early detection is critical to prevent vision loss especially in patients with obvious disease who do not have any symptoms. There is no way to know if someone has glaucoma by just measuring the intraocular pressure or by any vision related symptoms an individual may be experiencing. The optic nerves in both eyes must be fully visualized, ideally with a dilated eye exam, and the peripheral visual field must be tested. Individuals in the general population should have a glaucoma evaluation every two or three years after the age of 40, and every one or two years after the age of 60.

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