Glaucoma and Genetics

Glaucoma affects over 3 million Americans, and the numbers are increasing each year. According to the National Eye institute, this number will reach 4.2 million by 2030. Most people are unaware that undiagnosed glaucoma can result in permanent vision loss. In fact, glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. Everyone is at risk for glaucoma, but a family history of the disease can put you at significantly higher risk for developing glaucoma.

Glaucoma is characterized by elevated inner eye pressure that damages the optic nerve and causes blind spots in the visual field. Not every person with increased eye pressure will develop glaucoma. Some people can tolerate higher levels of eye pressure better than others. This is where genetics plays an important role. Whether you develop glaucoma depends on the level of intraocular pressure that your optic nerve can sustain without being stressed, and your inherited genes significantly factor into the outcome (Source: NEI).
If glaucoma runs in your family, there are many decisions that you can make to preserve your vision as well as prevent vision loss in your family. Here are some easy steps you can take:

  • At holidays and family gatherings, make sure that your family understands the facts about glaucoma and how it can affect long-term eye health.
  • Schedule an annual comprehensive eye exam that includes testing for glaucoma (tonometry).
  • Encourage your family members to schedule comprehensive eye exams.
  • Check the calendar at local hospitals and wellness centers for discussions and forums on glaucoma and eye health issues. Encourage your family to attend.

Population-based studies prove time and again that family history plays a key role in glaucoma development. But glaucoma does not have to be synonymous with vision loss. A strong partnership with a qualified eye care specialist can preserve your vision, and your family’s vision, for years to come (Source: Glaucoma Research Foundation).