Anyone can develop Glaucoma but certain people are more at risk to develop the disease. There are risk factors that could make you a ‘glaucoma suspect,’ meaning someone who is at a higher risk to eventually develop glaucoma during their lives. There are six major risk factors that can increase your likelihood to develop glaucoma.
As we get older, our bodies age and our health degenerates. This is true for our eyes, as well. While normal vision loss is something that can be expected with age, the side effects and vision loss of glaucoma should be reported to a doctor immediately. High pressure, dark spots, or peripheral vision loss- vision loss that happens around the edges of your view and works its way in- are serious vision problems that are more likely. Two percent of the population will develop glaucoma after age forty, and the percentage jumps to more than five percent for people who are older than eighty years old.
If your family members have a history of glaucoma, your risk for developing the disease is higher. Certain forms of the disease are hereditary. Open angle glaucoma is the most common form, making up ninety percent of all glaucoma cases, and it is known to be partially hereditary. Family history, or other members of your direct family having glaucoma increases your risk to develop the disease, making you anywhere from four times to nine times more likely than the average person to develop the disease.
People with African or Caribbean ancestry are four times more likely than their peers to develop Primary Open Angle Glaucoma, and unfortunately also tend to develop the disease with a much higher severity and at younger ages. People of Hispanic ancestry also have a higher risk than their peers. Primary Angle Closure Glaucoma is most common in people of Japanese and Chinese ancestry. If your ethnicity gives you a predisposition, and especially if you have family members with the disease, it is vital to your future sight that you talk to your doctor and have frequent eye exams.
Ocular Perfusion Pressure refers to a relationship between overall blood pressure and pressure in the inner eye, where the low blood pressure can work in tandem with high eye pressure. If a person has ocular perfusion pressure, their likelihood of developing eye issues increases. Low blood pressure, in general, can make it difficult for the eye to get the blood flow it needs. Without proper blood flow, eyes can become deprived of oxygen, nutrients, and its ability to drain waste. This can cause the ocular nerve to be damaged from too much pressure, or the tissue itself to degrade from lack of proper blood flow. By lowering the pressure in the eye or increasing one’s blood pressure, Ocular perfusion pressure can be treated and the risk factor can be all but eliminated.
Existing Eye Issues
Eye function problems such as nearsightedness or shortsightedness can put a person at a higher risk of eventually developing glaucoma. The connection between myopia (nearsightedness) and glaucoma is a highly discussed one, as experts grapple with the fact that symptoms of high myopia look a lot like symptoms of glaucoma, but myopia doesn’t progress at the rate and destruction level of glaucoma. The defining characteristic may be the pressure in the eye, but the connection is still one that is under debate.
Diabetic patients have an increased risk of developing glaucoma because several of the complications of diabetes can affect the eye’s abilities. Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye diseases that are more common with people who have diabetes than they are with people who don’t, and glaucoma definitely makes the list. People with diabetes are twice as likely as people who don’t have diabetes to develop glaucoma in their lives. Diabetes can damage the eye’s blood vessels and retina causing the retina to create new, abnormal, blood vessels for the eye. If these vessels grow on the iris, they can interfere with fluid drainage and can cause increased eye pressure that damages the optic nerve. This condition is known as neovascular glaucoma.
If you or your loved one has an increased risk of developing glaucoma due to any of these risk factors, consult with your doctor to determine what the best course of action will be for you, and sign up for frequent eye exams.