Glaucoma can occur at any age. Many forms of glaucoma have no obvious warning signs or symptoms.
The loss of vision can be so gradual that you may not notice a change in your vision until the glaucoma is advanced and the vision you have lost is both significant and irreversible. Catching it early can prevent irreversible vision loss. Treatment can be very simple -- often as simple as taking eye drops once a day.
Therefore, it pays to know if you have risk factors for glaucoma. If you do, you can get checked early and protect your eyesight. A diagnosis of glaucoma, especially an early one, can be welcome news because it means you now have the opportunity to prevent vision loss and enjoy the rest of your life with good eyesight.
What are the main risk factors for glaucoma?
- a family history of glaucoma
- elevated eye pressure (known as intraocular pressure or "IOP")
- a prolonged course of steroid (corticosteroid) medication -- especially eye drops of this type
- any eye operation in the past
- eye injury or impact to your eye (e.g., hit in eye with a ball) at any time in your life
- frequent migraine headaches
- a history or high or low blood pressure
- obstructive sleep apnea
- sickle cell anemia
- corneas that are thin in the center
- low corneal hysteresis ("CH")
- extreme nearsightedness or farsightedness
- African, Asian or Hispanic heritage
- increasing age; being young does not rule out glaucoma, but the risk goes up as we age. (Everyone should be checked after age 50-55, even without other risk factors.)
Less commonly cited (and probably controversial outside of FitEyes.com) risk factors may include:
- mitochondrial disease or dysfunction
- chronic systemic inflammation
- autoimmune conditions
- Flammer's syndrome (risk for normal tension glaucoma)
- very thin body type, especially if frail and have low blood pressure
- type A personality engineer, scientist, lawyer (or similar intellectual professional), middle age (risk is for pigmentary glaucoma, and this is anecdotal)
- low vitamin B3 levels
What should I do if I have risk factors for glaucoma?
The easy answer is to go see a qualified vision professional (such as an ophthalmologist) as soon as you can. I am not suggesting there is any reason to panic. There isn't. Having risk factors for glaucoma is not a medical emergency and the odds are you will not have glaucoma. (If you do, treatment is easy and you can preserve good vision all your life.) At the same time, don't procrastinate. If you have any of the risk factors, the best thing you can do is go get an exam from a qualified professional without delay.
- In a perfect world, everyone would have easy and free access to an exam with the Reichert Ocular Response Analyzer ("ORA"). It is:
- takes just a couple minutes
- can be done in simple offices (no fancy clinic or hospital visit required)
- you don't have to get undressed. The only article of clothing you need to remove is your hat and eyeglasses (if any)
- This one simple ORA test will:
- measure your eye pressure ("IOP") very accurately
- measure your corneal hysteresis ("CH") which is one of the most important tests you can have related to glaucoma risk
- create a waveform of your corneal biomechanics (which has multi-diagnostic value and will be of interest to you if you ever consider LASIK)
- and more