About 4 million Americans have open-angle glaucoma, the most common type of glaucoma (accounting for about 90% of all glaucoma cases). Half of these people w are unaware they have glaucoma because the condition causes no pain or visual changes in its early stages.
Risk factors for glaucoma include:
Elevated intraocular pressure in the eye increases the risk of optic nerve damage and glaucoma.
The risk of developing glaucoma increases with age. Everyone over age 60 is at risk of developing glaucoma. People in certain racial or ethnic groups are at higher risk of developing glaucoma at younger ages.
Compared to Caucasians, African-Americans have five times the risk of developing glaucoma, and four times the risk of becoming blind because of it. African-Americans are also much more likely than Caucasians to develop glaucoma at younger ages. For African-Americans, the risk of developing glaucoma begins at age 40. According to the U.S. National Eye Institute, African-Americans ages 45 - 64 are 15 times more likely to become blind due to glaucoma than Caucasians in the same age group.
People of Asian descent have a slightly greater risk than other racial groups of developing closed-angle glaucoma.
Glaucoma tends to run in families. Brothers and sisters of patients with open angle glaucoma are 5 times more likely to develop glaucoma by the time they are 70 years old than people whose siblings do not have the disease. Previous studies have also found that people with family histories of glaucoma are more likely to already have some vision loss when they are first diagnosed with glaucoma.
People with certain medical or physical conditions, including diabetes, migraine, nearsightedness, and sleep apnea, appear to have a higher risk for glaucoma. High blood pressure may be a risk factor. Conditions that require the use of any oral or inhaled steroid, particularly high doses for prolonged periods of time, can cause glaucoma. Previous eye surgery also puts people at risk, as does nearsightedness.
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