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On World Glaucoma Day, Do You Know Your Risks?

Glaucoma continues to be a major cause of blindness and vision loss both worldwide and in the United States, where an estimated 2.2 million people have the disease.

People with the top risk factors for the disease need to be especially vigilant. A recent National Eye Institute report found that fewer than 10 percent of Americans surveyed knew that glaucoma has no early warning signs, in most cases. “Glaucoma’s silent onset is a key reason the disease so often damages vision before people know they have it, and why eye exams are vital,” says Andrew Iwach, MD, spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology (Academy) and glaucoma expert. “Ophthalmologists can detect the subtle, early signs of glaucoma and provide treatment that will help people keep their best possible vision.”

Top risk factors for glaucoma are:

  • Age (65 years and older)
  • Elevated eye pressure
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • African, Asian or Latino ethnicity
  • Related health problems, including diabetes, low blood pressure, migraine headaches

For adults with no signs or risk factors for eye disease, the Academy recommends a baseline screening at age 40 — the time when the early stages of age-related eye disorders and vision changes may begin. Based on this screening information, the eye doctor will prescribe how often to return for follow-up exams. NEI and other research show that timely treatment helps save people’s vision.

Last reviewed on May 17, 2011

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