Glaucoma – Risk Factors and Diagnosis

Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders leading to progressive damage to the optic nerve, and is characterized by loss of nerve tissue resulting in loss of vision. The optic nerve is a bundle of about one million individual nerve fibers and transmits the visual signals from the eye to the brain.

The most common form of glaucoma, primary open-angle glaucoma, is associated with an increase in the fluid pressure inside the eye. This increase in pressure may cause progressive damage to the optic nerve and loss of nerve fibers. Vision loss may result. Advanced glaucoma may even cause blindness.

Not everyone with high eye pressure will develop glaucoma, and many people with normal eye pressure will develop glaucoma. When the pressure inside an eye is too high for that particular optic nerve, whatever that pressure measurement may be, glaucoma will develop.

Risk factors

Certain factors can increase the risk for developing glaucoma. They include:

  • Age – People over age 60 are at increased risk for the disease. For African Americans, however, the increase in risk begins after age 40. The risk of developing glaucoma increases slightly with each year of age.
  • Race – African Americans and Hispanic Americans are significantly more likely to get glaucoma than are Caucasians, and they are much more likely to suffer permanent vision loss as a result. People of Asian descent are at higher risk of angle-closure glaucoma and those of Japanese descent are more prone to low-tension glaucoma.
  • Family history of glaucoma – Having a family history of glaucoma increases the risk of developing glaucoma.
  • Medical conditions – Some studies indicate that diabetes may increases the risk of developing glaucoma, as do high blood pressure and heart disease.
  • Physical injuries to the eye – Severe trauma, such as being hit in the eye, can result in immediate increased eye pressure and future increases in pressure due to internal damage. Injury can also dislocate the lens, closing the drainage angle, and increasing pressure.
  • Other eye-related risk factors – Eye anatomy, namely corneal thickness and optic nerve appearance indicate risk for development of glaucoma. Conditions such as retinal detachment, eye tumors, and eye inflammations may also induce glaucoma. Some studies suggest that high amounts of nearsightedness known as myopia may also be a risk factor for the development of glaucoma.
  • Corticosteroid use – Using corticosteroids for prolonged periods of time appears to put some people at risk of getting secondary glaucoma.

Slide the image to see what it looks like through the eyes of an advanced glaucoma patient

Healthy Vision GAffected Vision G

Evaluation and Diagnosis of Glaucoma at SeePort

During every comprehensive eye exam, Dr. Hicks evaluates the optic nerve and pressure of the eye to determine if a patient is at risk for glaucoma.  In order to properly diagnose or rule out the disease, patients are scheduled for several tests which collect data necessary to make a correct diagnosis.  To learn more about glaucoma testing including examples of healthy eyes vs. glaucoma affected eyes, please visit the Glaucoma – Testing and Treatment page.  

Glaucoma testing and treatment is generally covered by your medical insurance plan.  If you do not have medical coverage or are covered by a plan we do not accept, we have designed a Solution.  Visit our SeePort Solutions page to learn more about spreading out the cost of glaucoma testing and treatment over the course of a year with automatic payments.  

Dr. Hicks welcomes all referrals and transfers of care from physicians to SeePort Optometry.  If you would like to contact Dr. Hicks directly, please email drj@seeportoptometry.com.  

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