Who’s at Risk for Developing Glaucoma?

glaucoma

Over three million people in the United States live with glaucoma, a silent, slow-developing group of eye diseases that cause permanent optic nerve damage. Without early detection and treatment, glaucoma usually results in gradual vision loss followed by near or total blindness.  

Glaucoma is, in fact, the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the U.S. and across the globe. But it doesn’t have to be this way: timely diagnosis and treatment can stop the progression of damage and often prevent vision loss.  

Having regular eye and vision checks is the only way to catch glaucoma in its earliest, most treatable stage. At Eldorado Vision & Optical in McKinney, Texas, glaucoma screenings are an important part of every comprehensive eye exam — especially for people with significant risk factors.

Glaucoma explained

The term glaucoma doesn’t denote a singular ocular disease, it refers to a group of related eye conditions that share the same underlying problem: elevated intraocular pressure or high pressure within the eye. 

It typically occurs when a buildup of fluid in the front part of the eye causes increased pressure within the eye. If this increased pressure remains undetected and untreated, it “releases” at the weakest point of the eye, which happens to be the site where the optic nerve is connected.

The optic nerve is made up of roughly a million microscopic nerve fibers that carry visual signals from the eye to the brain. Continuous intraocular pressure slowly destroys individual nerve fibers, leading to gradual, irreversible optic nerve damage and progressive vision loss.

Early-stage glaucoma is largely a hidden condition with no red flag warning signs or symptoms. Sometimes called the “silent thief of sight,” glaucoma progresses so slowly and painlessly that most people don’t know they have it until they’ve already experienced vision loss. 

Glaucoma risk factors

There’s an easy way to keep glaucoma from silently stealing your sight: we recommend a comprehensive eye exam once every year. 

Knowing your personal risk factors for glaucoma is also important — people who are at greater risk of developing glaucoma are often advised to have an eye exam at least once a year, regardless of their age.  

While anyone can develop glaucoma, certain factors create an elevated risk for some people, including: 

Older age

Glaucoma can affect young people, but it occurs most often in older adults. Your risk of developing glaucoma rises starting at the age of 40, and substantially increases after the age of 60.

Family history

Glaucoma appears to run in families, meaning the tendency for developing the disease may have a potential genetic component. If a close relative has glaucoma, you have a greater risk of developing it too. 

Ethnicity 

People of certain ethnic backgrounds are more likely to develop glaucoma at any age, including Black people, Hispanic and Latino people, and people of Asian descent. Black people especially have a higher-than-average risk starting at the age of 40, while Hispanic and Latino people have a much higher-than-average risk once they turn 60. 

High eye pressure

High intraocular pressure is a key risk factor for glaucomatous damage. Even so, not everyone with high eye pressure develops glaucoma, just as some people with normal eye pressure do go on to develop the disease. 

Other factors

Older age, family history, ethnicity, and high eye pressure are considered “strong” risk factors for glaucoma. Lesser but still “potential” risk factors include:

If you have any of these strong or potential risk factors for glaucoma, regular comprehensive eye exams are your best defense against “the silent thief of sight” and future vision loss. 

Glaucoma management

Most glaucomas can’t be cured, but they can be managed successfully with prompt and proper care. 

The most common treatment solution is medication delivered via prescription eye drops. The medicine in the drops lowers intraocular eye pressure to stop optic nerve damage and prevent vision loss. Laser treatments and surgery are other effective strategies for draining excess fluid, relieving eye pressure, and preserving ocular health.

Remember: Even though glaucoma is a serious disease, treatment works well — you can stop it in its tracks if you catch it in time. To schedule your next comprehensive eye exam at Eldorado Vision & Optical in McKinney, Texas, call 972-318-2574 or click online today.

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