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Is Glaucoma Genetic?

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a senior man rubs his eyes to attempt to see, as his vision is fading due to glaucoma

Glaucoma is an eye condition that can affect anyone. Glaucoma can happen at any age, but certain groups of people are at a higher risk than others. While many doctors have studied this condition, there currently are no known genetic markers for early indication of glaucoma to indicate how high your risk factor for this condition could be. This condition typically does not present early symptoms, and early diagnosis is very important so treatment can be done as early as possible. 

Glaucoma is thought to be hereditary and tends to run in families, but studies are still being done to understand this condition fully. If someone in your family has glaucoma, it’s still possible you may not get this condition. Glaucoma tends to affect people over 60 but can come on suddenly in some cases, such as when a traumatic eye injury occurs. 

While glaucoma cannot be prevented, the health of your eyes can change quickly. Having regular eye exams will help your optometrist detect a change in your eyes. There are many different types of glaucoma, so if you notice any changes in your vision, notify your optometrist. 

What Are the Signs of Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a condition in which the optic nerve is damaged, impacting your vision. Severe cases of glaucoma can lead to blindness—glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. In many cases, this happens because the pressure in the eye becomes too high. In some cases, eye pressure will not change but optic nerve damage may still occur. You may notice changes in your vision slowly, but if these signs are not addressed early, it can lead to blindness. 

There are several kinds of glaucoma, but open-angle is the most common form. Each type of glaucoma may have slightly different symptoms and signs to watch for. Some symptoms that can be linked to various types of glaucoma are: 

  • Severe headache and eye pain
  • Blurred vision, sometimes associated with exercise
  • Patchy spots in your side or peripheral vision (commonly seen in early stages)
  • Colored rings or halos around lights 
  • Eye redness

If you experience a sudden onset of symptoms listed above, you should see an eye doctor as soon as possible. 

Is There any Way to Prevent Glaucoma?

Glaucoma cannot be prevented. This condition can come on suddenly due to the deterioration of the optic nerve and lead to the development of blind spots. Depending on the type you have, there may be some early signs. It’s important to take note of any warning signs to help prevent vision loss. 

Even though this condition cannot be prevented, it is a progressive disease. Over time, the condition may get worse and the damage will become more apparent. There are treatments available to slow down the progression of glaucoma, but nothing can be done to reverse it or cure it permanently. 

Regular checkups with your eye doctor can help to identify if you are at higher risk for glaucoma, giving you the opportunity to begin treatment at the first sign of changes in your eye health. 

a man has an eye exam to ensure glaucoma is not developing

Treating Glaucoma

There are a variety of treatments for glaucoma. While some of them are more invasive than others, treatment options will vary based on the type of glaucoma and what stage you are at:

  • Selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT): a process in which low levels of laser lights are used to improve the drainage of fluid inside your eye. In many cases, the drainage helps to reduce the pressure in your eye and results can last up to 3 years. 
  • Medications: typically in the form of eye drops. Over time, your body can build up a resistance to the drops and your prescription may change in order for the drops to remain effective. 
  • Incisional surgery: a procedure performed in hospitals by making an incision into the eye. If other treatments are ineffective, your doctor may recommend this course of action. 

Take the First Step Today

If you believe you may be at risk for glaucoma or notice early symptoms, speak with one of our eye doctors. Caring for your eye health today can help preserve your vision tomorrow. 

Our eye doctors are prepared to help with early detection, treatment, and education about how to care for your vision. Take the first step in preventing vision loss by booking an appointment at Optical Illusions today. 

Written by Dr. Will To

Dr. William To has multiple years of healthcare experience providing design-based ocular care, with an optometric emphasis in Pediatrics, Dry Eye Therapy, and Ocular Surface Disease.

He graduated from UC San Diego with a Bachelor’s in Human Biology and a minor in Psychology and earned his Doctorate in Optometry from Western University of Health Sciences. Dr. Will is regularly invited to several Optometric Conferences and Colleges of Optometry each year to lecture to his colleagues and students, having given over 100 lectures and written several published editorials.

When he’s not caring for his amazing patients, Dr. Will enjoys traveling every chance he gets. As a Bay Area native, he has taken on leadership roles both in the local community and beyond, serving as the President of the Santa Clara County Optometric Society and on several California Optometric Association and American Optometric Association committees. He is actively involved with a variety of community outreach and social programs.

Dr. Will is an avid Golden State Warriors and 49ers fan.

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