Understanding Glaucoma

Who is at Risk?

Everyone is at risk for glaucoma. However, certain groups are at higher risk than others.

Your glaucoma specialist considers many kinds of information to determine your risk for developing glaucoma. The most important risks include:

  • Barbara A. Smythe, M.D.Age. Glaucoma is much more common among older people. If you are 60 or older you are six times more likely to get glaucoma.
  • Elevated eye pressure. The intraocular pressure becomes elevated beyond the limit that will permit normal function of the optic nerve.
  • Family history of glaucoma. Primary open angle glaucoma, the most common form of glaucoma is hereditary. If members of your immediate family have glaucoma, you are at a much higher risk than the rest of the population. This one factor of family history increases your risk of glaucoma four to nine times.
  • African American or Hispanic/Latino ancestry. The risk for Hispanic populations is greater than those of predominantly European ancestry. The risk increases among Hispanics over age 60.
  • Asians and Eskimos. The population of Asian descent are at higher risk for angle closure glaucoma. This type of glaucoma represents less than 10% of all diagnosed cases of glaucoma; otherwise, there is no known increased risk in the Asian population. People of Japanese descent may also be at higher risk for normal tension glaucoma. In this condition, there is no apparent true IOP elevation.
  • Past eye injury. Injury to the eye may cause secondary glaucoma. This could happen immediately after the injury or years later. Blunt trauma or injuries that penetrate the eye can damage the eye's drainage system, leading to traumatic glaucoma. Sports related injuries in baseball or boxing are the more common types of injuries.
  • Thinner central corneal thickness. A corneal thickness of less that .5 mm., could be an indicator for glaucoma. Your physician will measure your corneal thickness at the time of your initial evaluation for glaucoma by performing a pachymetry test.
  • Steroid Users. Some evidence links steroid use to glaucoma. The American Journal of American Medical Association, March 5, 1997, demonstrated a 40% increase in the incidence of ocular hypertension and open angle glaucoma in adults who require approximately 14 to 35 puffs of steroid inhaler to control asthma. Steroids taken orally or by injection may lead to glaucoma especially when this practice is chronic or frequently repeated.
  • Health problems. Systemic health problems, including diabetes, migraine headaches, and poor circulation may be associated with certain kinds of glaucoma.
  • Farsightedness or nearsightedness.

Your physician will weigh all of these factors before deciding whether you need treatment for glaucoma or observation for suspected glaucoma.

NEXT: Types of Glaucoma

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