There are many conditions or findings that can lead to glaucoma. Typically glaucoma is high eye pressure that can cause damage to the back of the eye (optic nerve) and lead to peripheral vision loss. Risk factors for glaucoma include:
- Elevated internal eye pressure (intraocular pressure). If your intraocular pressure is higher than normal, you’re at increased risk of developing glaucoma, though not everyone with elevated intraocular pressure develops the disease.
- Large optic nerve measurements These may be found during the course of your eye examination. Large optic nerves can be congenital in nature (meaning that’s how your optic nerves were formed) or an early sign of glaucoma.
- Age. Everyone older than 60 is at increased risk of glaucoma. For certain population groups such as African-Americans, however, the risk is much higher and occurs at a younger age than that of the average population. If you’re African-American, ask your doctor when you should start having regular comprehensive eye exams.
- Ethnic background. African-Americans are five times more likely to get glaucoma than are Caucasians, and they’re much more likely to experience permanent blindness as a result. Mexican-Americans and Asian-Americans also face an increased risk.
- Family history of glaucoma. If you have a family history of glaucoma, you have a much greater risk of developing it. Glaucoma may have a genetic link, meaning there’s a defect in one or more genes that may cause certain individuals to be unusually susceptible to the disease. A form of juvenile open-angle glaucoma has been clearly linked to genetic abnormalities.
- Medical conditions. Diabetes and hypothyroidism increase your risk of developing glaucoma.
- Other eye conditions. Severe eye injuries can result in increased eye pressure. Injury can also dislocate the lens, closing the drainage angle. Other risk factors include retinal detachment, eye tumors and eye inflammations, such as chronic uveitis and iritis. Certain types of eye surgery also may trigger secondary glaucoma.
- Nearsightedness Being nearsighted, which generally means that objects in the distance look fuzzy without glasses or contacts, increases the risk of developing glaucoma.
- Prolonged corticosteroid use. Using corticosteroids for prolonged periods of time appears to put you at risk of getting secondary glaucoma. This is especially true if you use corticosteroids eyedrops.
Glaucoma can be a very concerning condition for our patients. We know have at our disposal many ways to check for glaucoma. In addition, people are getting more frequent eye exams (annually) and the condition is being caught in its very early stages. If our physicians are concerned that you may have glaucoma or simply want to rule the condition out due to findings during your exam, they may order additional testing to be performed at a later date. This testing includes a visual field evaluation (peripheral vision), repeat eye pressure test, gonioscopy (evaluates the outflow of fluid within the eyes), and high resolution retinal imaging (ability to see small changes from glaucoma).