What is glaucoma and why is it not preventable?
Glaucoma is the name given to a group of conditions where, for most people, raised pressure inside the eye causes damage to the sensitive nerve fibres responsible for sight. This damage is generally painless and can creep up on you without signs or symptoms. To find out more on the different types of glaucoma, you can read about it here.
Glaucoma can develop due to a number of different ways, both natural and consequential, from causes that we know, such as diabetes, to ones we don’t. And because there are so many reasons why glaucoma can develop, it means that there are no known ways to prevent it.
Glaucoma risk factors
Although it can’t be prevented, it is possible to reduce and manage the damage done by glaucoma, as well as how quickly it develops, by catching it early. A good place to start, therefore, is understanding the risk factors associated with glaucoma.
Glaucoma becomes more likely as we age, so your optician will offer you some special checks for glaucoma once you reach 40. According to the International Glaucoma Association, the number of people with the condition rises from about 2% of people over the age of 40 to more than 5% for those over the age of 80.1
There are some groups of people who are more likely to develop glaucoma than others. People who are of African or Afro-Caribbean origin are at four times greater risk of developing the most common type of glaucoma. Within this group, glaucoma tends to start earlier and be more severe. People of Asian origin are also at increased risk.
It’s thought that glaucoma is hereditary, so if one of your parents, a sibling or your child has glaucoma, your risk may be increased.1 It’s also thought that people with diabetes have a higher risk of certain types of glaucoma, as well as people who have problems with their blood pressure.2 There is also an increased risk of glaucoma if you are short-sighted, and those who are long-sighted can be at increased risk of a less common type of glaucoma.
How can I prevent further damage?
If you’re over 40, or you fall into one of those groups, a regular eye examination is key to preventing damage to your eye from undetected eye diseases such as glaucoma. Regular eye tests are advised at least every two years for everyone, although your optician may recommend that you visit more regularly.
It’s important you attend regular eye tests even if you feel your vision is excellent. Our eye tests check more than how well you can see and always include several tests as standard to make sure your eyes are healthy.
For more information on the causes of glaucoma, you can find it in our dedicated glaucoma learning resource.
1. International Glaucoma Association. (no date). Am I at risk? [Online]. Available at: https://www.glaucoma-association.com/about-glaucoma/what-is-glaucoma/am-i-at-risk/ [Accessed 21 May 2019].
2. Cantor, L. B. (2017). Does Blood Pressure Affect Glaucoma? Glaucoma Research Foundation. [Online]. Available at: https://www.glaucoma.org/glaucoma/does-blood-pressure-affect-glaucoma.php [Accessed 21 May 2019].