National Family Health History Day is Nov. 23. Knowing your predisposition for health and eye conditions can help you make informed decisions about screening and prevention. Yearly comprehensive eye exams can prevent irreversible eye damage from glaucoma, one of the leading causes of blindness.
Glaucoma, the Sneak Thief of Sight
Did you know you could be losing your vision and unaware of it? Glaucoma is a family of eye diseases that damages the optic nerve and reduces the visual field. This disease is called “the sneak thief of sight” because it can be painless and often does not have symptoms.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three million Americans have glaucoma, but only about half know they have it. Both heredity and age can contribute to your glaucoma risk. People older than 50 should get tested for glaucoma at least annually, even with perfect vision.
Know Your Risk for Hereditary Glaucoma
If you have a family member with glaucoma, you should get screened earlier. Genetic mutations can cause inherited glaucoma, affecting the eye’s drainage system and internal ocular pressure (IOP). Some ethnicities like Latinos, African Americans, Asians and Scandinavians have an increased disease risk. There are several types of hereditary glaucoma:
- Primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) — This is the most common type of glaucoma. Elevated IOP damages the optic nerve and slowly deteriorates vision. Individuals of African descent may be more likely to develop POAG.
- Primary angle-closure glaucoma — When the eye’s drainage system gets blocked, it can increase inner eye pressure. People of Asian descent are at increased risk.
- Pigmentary glaucoma — Pigment can also accumulate in the eye’s drainage system, and this can increase IOP and cause glaucoma.
- Congenital glaucoma — Glaucoma can develop at birth if the eye drainage system develops abnormally. This type of glaucoma is rare but can be inherited (Glaucoma Research Foundation).
Comprehensive Eye Exams Preserve Vision, Prevent Injury
National Family Health History Day falls on Thanksgiving Day this year. What an appropriate way to give thanks for loved ones and good health. You can show gratitude for clear vision by making an annual appointment for a comprehensive eye exam. At your eye appointment, your ophthalmologist will screen you for glaucoma using a specific test to determine your eye pressure. You will also get screened for other eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration.
Start your gratitude early by calling to make an appointment for eye exams for the whole family. If you need help finding an ophthalmologist, our eye care centers are nationwide. Our physicians and staff are ready to partner with you on your journey toward better eye health.