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Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Are You at Risk of Developing Glaucoma?

My sibling was recently diagnosed with glaucoma and has suffered some vision loss without any previous warning signs. Could I be at risk too?

Having an immediate family member with glaucoma significantly increases your risk of developing it, but there are other risk factors that you also need to be aware of. Here is what you should know.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve and cause vision loss and blindness if it is not treated. This happens when the fluids in the eye do not drain properly, causing increased pressure in the eye. Unfortunately, because glaucoma has no early warning signs or pain, many do not realize they have it until their vision begins to deteriorate.

There are two main types of glaucoma: open-angle and angle-closure glaucoma. The most common is open-angle glaucoma. This disease develops very slowly when the eye's drainage canals become clogged over time, leading to blind spots in the peripheral or side vision. By the time an individual notices it, permanent damage is already done.

Are You at Risk?

It is estimated that more than 3 million Americans have glaucoma today, but that number is expected to surge to more than 6.3 million by 2050. If you answer "yes" to any of the following questions, you may have an increased risk of developing glaucoma.
  • Are you African American, Hispanic or Asian American?
  • Are you over age 60?
  • Do you have an immediate family member with glaucoma?
  • Do you have diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, migraines or extreme nearsightedness or farsightedness?
  • Have you had an eye injury?
  • Have you used corticosteroids (for example: eye drops, pills, inhalers, and creams) for long periods of time?

Next Steps

Early detection is the key to guarding against glaucoma. The American Optometric Association recommends that adults ages 18 to 64 receive annual eye exams. If you are age 40 or older and have any of the previously mentioned risk factors, you should get a comprehensive eye examination at least every 18 to 24 months. Alternatively, if you notice some loss of peripheral vision, you should consult with your eye doctor immediately.

If you are a Medicare beneficiary, annual glaucoma screenings are covered for those at high risk for glaucoma. If your insurance does not cover screenings, search online for local no-cost glaucoma exams.

While there is currently no cure for glaucoma, most cases can be treated with prescription eye drops, which reduce eye pressure and can prevent further vision loss. However, vision lost from glaucoma cannot be restored. If eye drops do not work, your doctor may recommend oral medication, laser treatments, incisional surgery or a combination of these methods. For more information on glaucoma, visit the National Eye Institute at

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published January 12, 2024
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