Is Glaucoma Hereditary? Risk Factors, Treatment Options

A senior woman and her daughter smile

Glaucoma is a degenerative eye disease that affects more than three million Americans. Because the disease is typically asymptomatic until the later stages of its progression, it is critical to have regular, dilated eye exams, especially if you have risk factors. Though it is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, early detection can help prevent vision loss.

Is Glaucoma Hereditary?

Yes, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, patients are four to nine times more likely to develop glaucoma if there is a family history of the disease. Glaucoma occurs when pressure rises inside the eye and causes damage to the optic nerve over time. Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of the disease, caused by a buildup of fluid that is unable to drain from the eye normally.

There is also a known link between high blood pressure (hypertension) and optic nerve damage, and high blood pressure is another condition that can run in families. If you have a family history of either hypertension or glaucoma, it’s important to have your eyes monitored throughout your lifetime with regular exams.

Factors That Increase Your Risk of Glaucoma

Glaucoma develops gradually, often before you notice any symptoms. That’s why it’s important to know if you have any risk factors and see an eye specialist for regular eye exams to prevent vision loss. About half of all glaucoma patients don’t know they have the condition, and by the time the damage to your optic nerve is significant enough to notice blind spots, that vision loss is permanent.

In addition to family history, other factors can predispose you to this condition. These risk factors include:

·         Being age 60 or older

·         Being extremely nearsighted

·         Being of Hispanic, Asian or African descent

·         Having medical conditions like diabetes or heart disease

·         Having corneas that are thin in the center

·         Suffering an eye injury, or undergoing certain kinds of eye surgery

·         Using corticosteroid eye drops for an extended time

Glaucoma Treatment Options

If you have one or more of these risk factors, what are your treatment options? Patients concerned about their risk should work with an eye specialist to detect and treat the condition right away. Make prevention a priority to help avoid vision loss and discomfort.

Providers at Florida Eye Specialists work with you to decide the best treatment, often beginning with prescription eye drops that can help lower intraocular pressure. Most people respond well to these and can delay surgery. For those whose condition is more aggressive or advanced, a combination of treatments, inclduding eye drops, laser treatment or surgery, can be used to relieve pressure within the eye and prevent further vision loss.

Eye surgery can sound intimidating, but Florida Eye Specialists performs the latest minimally invasive procedures to ensure you have a safe operation with more predictable outcomes and a quicker recovery compared to traditional surgery. Laser therapy is used to treat open-angle glaucoma, and uses a small laser beam to open the clogs preventing intraocular fluid from draining. Minimally invasive glaucoma surgery, or MIGS, could involve a variety of techniques, but all aim to alleviate pressure within the eye.While risk factors for glaucoma may threaten your vision, you can minimize them by having expert providers on your team and by receiving regular screenings. Request an appointment at Florida Eye Specialists to protect your vision.