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Who’s at Highest Risk of Developing Glaucoma?

Most health conditions start with a few mild symptoms that progressively worsen. It’s your body’s warning that something is wrong and you need to seek medical attention. But other conditions are like glaucoma: They do their damage silently, so you never have a fighting chance.

Glaucoma is a disease that damages your optic nerve and leads to irreversible vision loss. It’s not curable, but it is treatable, and Dr. Phillip C. Wu at Suburban Eyes Clinic in Evanston, Illinois, is highly skilled at caring for those with this progressive condition. Here’s what you should know about glaucoma before it’s too late.

Understanding glaucoma

There are several types and complexities of glaucoma, and they differ in how they damage the optic nerve. 

Open-angle glaucoma, the most common type, accounts for more than 90% of all cases and  develops from increased pressure inside your eyes. You can’t see or feel this eye pressure initially, and it progresses over the years until your optic nerve is damaged enough to cause vision problems. 

Under normal circumstances, fluid inside your eyes creates pressure that helps your eyes hold their shape. As your eyes continuously produce new fluid, they drain old fluid through canals in the corners of your eyes. This maintains the optimal amount of fluid and eye pressure.

If the drainage canals become clogged, your eye pressure increases and damages the optic nerve, and you develop open-angle glaucoma.

Who’s at risk for glaucoma?

Glaucoma is nondiscriminatory. It affects men and women, adults and children, even infants. But a few factors put you at higher risk than the general population. 

High eye pressure

High eye pressure is caused by:

Routine appointments with Dr. Wu can give you the peace of mind that your eye pressure is checked regularly, and that if glaucoma begins to affect your eyes, he can detect it and treat it early before you even know you have it.

Glaucoma runs in families

If you end up with open-angle glaucoma, chances are you can blame genetics. If someone in your immediate family has glaucoma, your risk of glaucoma is up to nine times higher compared with families without glaucoma.

Age and ethnicity

Age plays a role in the development of glaucoma, so if you’re 60 or older, you’re six times more likely to develop glaucoma. But if you’re of certain ethnic backgrounds, your risk of glaucoma may be even higher:

Reasons for these differences aren’t clear, but studies are continually being conducted to find out what genetic factors might influence the development of glaucoma in these specific populations. 

Comorbidity risk factors for open-angle glaucoma

In addition to ethnicity and age, other possible issues can increase your likelihood of glaucoma, such as: 

Even though high blood pressure can cause a slight increase in eye pressure, you might be surprised to learn that low blood pressure may be a more critical risk factor. That’s because glaucoma is more likely to develop when there’s a greater contrast between eye pressure and blood pressure, and that’s what low blood pressure does. 

Taking blood pressure medications may increase your risk for glaucoma. 

How to offset your risk for glaucoma

If you know you’re in a high-risk group, It’s important to have your eye pressure checked regularly and monitor any other factors.

Routine eye exams

At each exam, we test your eye pressure and examine the inside of your eyes, so we can detect the earliest signs of glaucoma and prescribe treatment to help prevent the problem from getting worse.

Manage your other health conditions

If you have medical risk factors like diabetes or hypertension, manage your symptoms well to help keep glaucoma at bay. Simply changing your diet, exercise, and other lifestyle routines can make a big difference.

If you’re 40 or older and haven’t had an eye exam for a while, call our Evanston, Illinois, office today at 847-424-1100 or book an appointment online to have your eye pressure and your overall eye health checked. You can also send a message to Dr. Wu and the team here on our website.

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