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Does Glaucoma Run in Your Family?

January 19, 2023

Glaucoma is often thought of as an eye disease, but it’s actually a term used to refer to a group of diseases that impact the eye’s optic nerve. The most common one, known as open-angle Glaucoma, has no early warning signs but can lead to irreversible blindness if not managed properly. The thing is, a routine eye exam cannot detect Glaucoma.

To determine whether or not you suffer from the disease, you’ll need to schedule a comprehensive eye exam that involves dilating your pupil so your doctor can see the inside of your eye and look for early signs of the disease. But is it really something you should be worried about?

Who Can Get Glaucoma?

About 3 million Americans have Glaucoma and most don’t find out until irreversible vision loss has occurred. While the condition cannot be treated, early detection can allow you to prevent the progression of the disease, which will protect your vision. Unfortunately, anyone can get Glaucoma at any age, but it’s most common in certain groups.

All people over the age of 60 are considered at high risk for Glaucoma. However, African Americans are 6x to 8x more likely to get the disease, which is why all African Americans over the age of 40 are considered high risk. However, age and race are not the only factors.

If you have a family history of Glaucoma, you are considered at high risk. The same goes for individuals with diabetes. High blood pressure, smoking, being overweight, and other factors can also increase your risk of developing Glaucoma.

Glaucoma and Genetics

Open-angle Glaucoma is the most common form of the disease and it can impact anyone, but it is known to be hereditary. This means it runs in the family, so if someone you are related to has suffered from it, you should be taking extra precautions to help ensure you don’t get it. If someone in your immediate family has it, you are up to 8x more likely to suffer from it.

Genetics are a tricky thing, so just because your parents don’t have it but maybe their parents did, it doesn’t mean you’re any less likely to get it yourself. Glaucoma can be passed down as an “autosomal recessive” fashion, which means both of your parents could be carrying the genetic mutation that causes the disease but neither of them will ever suffer from it. Yet, you may have inherited both copies of that mutation, leading to you getting Glaucoma at some point in your life.

Fortunately, you don’t need to track down your family tree to figure out if you’re at risk of Glaucoma or not. Again, the disease can affect anyone, so whether or not you know about a family history of it, you should be taking steps to prevent and detect it.

Can I Prevent Glaucoma?

Especially if Glaucoma runs in your family, it may not be fully possible to prevent the disease. However, you can take steps to mitigate your risk of developing it — like by controlling your blood pressure, avoiding smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight. Even still, you could contract Glaucoma, so it’s important to get a comprehensive eye exam at least once before the age of 40. If you’re in a high-risk group, you should be getting a comprehensive exam every year. 

While there is no treatment for Glaucoma yet, the earlier you detect it, the better you will be able to protect your vision from permanent damage.

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