Family History and Glaucoma Risk

Certain eye conditions have very specific warning signs which don’t require an M.D. to diagnose. If you are squinting to see objects that are far away, you have myopia, or nearsightedness. Having trouble seeing that small type on your smartphone or Kindle? You may be developing presbyopia.

Some eye conditions are not accompanied by symptoms, but they can cause permanent vision damage. One of these conditions is glaucoma, an optic nerve disease caused by increased pressure inside the eye. Glaucoma can develop slowly and painlessly without you even noticing it, until you have lost a significant portion of your vision.

The best way to prevent vision damage from glaucoma is to diagnose the disease in the early stages. However, without warning signs, how is it even possible to detect this disease? In the absence of symptoms, you must be aware of the risk factors for glaucoma. One of the most significant risk factors for glaucoma is family history. The most common form of glaucoma is called primary open-angle glaucoma, which accounts for about 80 percent of glaucoma cases. If members of your family have primary open-angle glaucoma, it could increase your risk by four to nine times.

Because family history can be so influential in whether you develop glaucoma, it is important to communicate with your extended family members about the disease. Vision damage from glaucoma is irreversible, and it is currently the second-leading cause of blindness in the United States. Unfortunately, glaucoma is not preventable, but it is treatable, especially when it is diagnosed early. If glaucoma runs in your family, make it a priority to stay current with comprehensive eye exams. Dilated eye exams are the best way to ensure that eye disease can be detected and treated at the earliest possible stage.