January marks Glaucoma Awareness Month, so it’s an important time to think about who is at risk for this disease. Glaucoma is an eye disorder that gradually leads to decreased sight due to optic nerve damage. Because there are no clear warning signs other than gradual vision loss, many people do not realize they have glaucoma until it is too late. On average, a person can lose up to 40 percent of their vision without noticing. Once your vision is lost to this disease, it cannot be restored.
Certain groups of people are more at risk for developing glaucoma than others. If you fall into one of these categories, it is essential to visit your eye doctor on a regular basis for a comprehensive exam that tests for glaucoma.
Adults 60 Years or Older
Seniors are more susceptible to a number of conditions as they age, so it’s no surprise that their risk for glaucoma increases as well. In fact, statistics show that you are six time more likely to get glaucoma when you are over 60.
People with a Family History of Glaucoma
If glaucoma runs in your family, unfortunately that puts you at a much higher risk of developing it. The most common kind of glaucoma is actually hereditary, meaning it can be passed on through different genes. This increases your risk of glaucoma between four to nine times.
African Americans and Asians
Specifically, these two races have a much higher risk of developing glaucoma than the rest of the population. It’s actually the leading cause of blindness in people of African descent and is six to eight times more common in African Americans than in Caucasians.
As for Asians, they are specifically at risk for a kind of glaucoma called angle-closure glaucoma, which accounts for less than 10 percent of all diagnosed cases.
Hispanic Adults Over 60
While we’ve already gone over the general risk for people over 60, it turns out that people of Hispanic descent over 60 have an even higher risk when compared to the general population.
Other Risk Factors
While you can’t change your race or your age, there are certain risk factors that are preventable. For example, steroid users were found to have a 40 percent increase in certain types of glaucoma compared to non-steroid users.
Additionally, eye injuries are a contributing factor to glaucoma. These often occur during sports such as baseball or boxing where the eye can be bruised.
Those who have high myopia, hypertension, and a central corneal thickness of less than .5mm are also at an increased risk.