Although the exact cause of Glaucoma is unknown, studies have identified certain risk factors for glaucoma.
Do you have any of these risk factors? Read along to find out!
There are some factors that increase your risk of developing glaucoma. Let’s discuss them in detail
Glaucoma is most common in people over the age of 40 years. Although children and young adults may also be affected by glaucoma, the risk increases with age.
A regular eye check-up with glaucoma screening is recommended for all persons above the age of 40 years.
2. Family history
If one of your parents or siblings have been diagnosed with glaucoma, you are at an increased risk of developing glaucoma. Glaucoma is known to run in families.
Therefore, it is advisable that people with a known family history of glaucoma undergo regular glaucoma screening.
People belonging to the African American ethnicity have a greater risk of developing glaucoma.
4. High pressure within the eye
Most cases of glaucoma are associated with an increased pressure in the eyes. The normal range of eye pressure is 10 – 21 mmHg (millimeters of mercury)
Anyone with eye pressure more than 21mmHg is at a risk of developing glaucoma. Most glaucoma medications aim at lowering the eye pressure to prevent damage to the nerves at the back of the eye.
5. High Myopia
Myopia is also known as “nearsightedness”. People with myopia require a minus spectacles power. If a person has a spectacles power more than -8.00 DS, they are said to have “high myopia”.
High myopia is a known risk factor for glaucoma, and regular screening is recommended.
6. High Hypermetropia
Hypermetropia refers to a plus spectacles power. It is also known as “long sightedness”. If a person requires a spectacles of power more than +5.00 DS, they are said to have high hypermetropia.
High hypermetropia predisposes a person to a different kind of glaucoma known as “acute glaucoma” or “angle closure glaucoma.” I will be writing a separate article on “acute glaucoma” this week.
7. Thin cornea
Cornea refers to the clear watch glass-like structure in the front of our eyes, that covers the “iris” which is the colored part of our eyes.
Cornea has a certain thickness, the normal range being 520-550 microns. People with corneas thinner than 490 microns have an increased risk of developing glaucoma. Corneal thickness is measured using an instrument known as pachymeter and is a part of routine glaucoma screening.
People suffering from diabetes are at an increased risk of developing glaucoma. Longer the duration of diabetes, greater the risk.
Therefore along with a routine fundus examination done to rule out diabetic retinopathy, diabetic patients are advised to undergo a regular glaucoma screening as well.
9. High blood pressure
Although blood pressure isn’t directly related to eye pressure, sustained high blood pressure is known to increase the risk of glaucoma.
10. Eye Injury
If you’ve ever suffered from trauma to your eye, especially by a blunt object, you may be at a risk of developing glaucoma in the future. If you have a history of eye trauma, do visit your eye doctor regularly to monitor your eye pressure.
If I have any of the above listed risk factors, does it mean I will get glaucoma?
No, it only means that you have a higher chance of developing glaucoma if you have any of these risk factors, compared to those without them. But it is not an absolute precursor. You may have these risk factors but could never get glaucoma. But since you are at an increased risk, you might want to be cautious and schedule regular eye checkups to detect early signs of glaucoma.
What should I do if I have a glaucoma risk factor?
Do not panic!
Visit your eye doctor and get yourself tested for glaucoma. Your eye doctor will examine your eyes for signs of glaucoma and measure your eye pressure. If in doubt, your doctor may advise a test known as “perimetry” or “visual field testing.” This test will enable you to determine if there are any early visual field losses.
A diagnosis of glaucoma is made using a combination of eye pressure, assessment of your optic nerve, and visual field changes.
What is a “glaucoma suspect”?
Sometimes, a patient could have raised eye pressure and the optic nerve could have glaucomatous changes, but the visual field test report is absolutely normal.
In such cases, the patient is not labeled as a glaucoma patient. Such a patient is suspected to be having glaucoma, but there is no evidence to confirm the diagnosis, therefore such a patient would be called a “glaucoma suspect.”
If your eye doctor is of the opinion that you could be a glaucoma suspect, you just need to follow-up with your doctor who will monitor your progress. A repeat visual field may be advised after 3 to 6 months.
A glaucoma suspect may or may not progress to clinical glaucoma.
My eye doctor diagnosed me with glaucoma, now what?
You are lucky to have been diagnosed at an early stage. More than 50% people don’t even know that they have glaucoma till they have lost a significant amount of vision.
Now that an early diagnosis has been made, the plan would be to prevent the progression of glaucoma. Your eye doctor will prescribe some eye drops that you will need to use regularly. You will be asked to follow up at regular intervals so that your eyes can be examined and visual fields can be assessed.
Your eye doctor will set a “target pressure” for your eyes, which means, the pressure of your eye at which there is no further loss of vision. Once this target pressure is achieved, you simply have to maintain this target pressure life long with the help of medicines prescribed by your doctor.
Apart from eye drops, what are the other treatment options for glaucoma?
Eye drops are the first line of treatment and are usually quite effective. Apart from that, there are laser procedures, surgeries and implants available for the treatment of glaucoma. I will be discussing these in detail in one of my upcoming blogs.
I hope I have helped you understand the risk factors of glaucoma and what to do if you have any of these risk factors.
If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or email me at email@example.com
I’ll see you tomorrow in my next blog regarding glaucoma, till then take good care of your eyes and stay healthy!