Is Glaucoma Hereditary?

Is Glaucoma Hereditary?

Glaucoma is a serious group of eye diseases that affect about 3 million Americans. Around the world, it’s the second most common cause of blindness behind cataracts. The most common form of glaucoma has few symptoms in its early stages, so about half of those with the condition have no idea they have it until it’s revealed in an eye exam. 

There’s no cure for glaucoma, and damage from the disease can’t be reversed, but treatment can preserve your remaining vision while slowing the condition’s progress. Your best protection against glaucoma is regular eye exams at one of IC Laser Eye Care’s offices, located in Bensalem and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Hamilton, New Jersey. As glaucoma specialists, our ophthalmologists are fully up-to-date on leading-edge techniques and treatments. 

Is glaucoma hereditary? 

If you’re concerned about glaucoma because someone else in your family has it, your fears are well grounded, since researchers have connected elevated eye pressure and optic nerve damage to certain genes. Glaucoma does tend to pass on through families. 

Understanding glaucoma

The diseases that fall under the glaucoma name usually have one thing in common: elevated pressure inside the eyeball. One exception is normal-tension glaucoma, where the optic nerve suffers damage, even though pressure inside the eye is normal or close to normal. 

Open-angle glaucoma

This is the most common type of glaucoma. The fluid inside your eye, called the vitreous, is constantly renewed, and the excess drains through a system called the trabecular meshwork at the point where the iris and cornea meet, called the angle. This meshwork can become blocked, though the angle remains open, leading to a build-up of pressure in the vitreous. 

Increased pressure strains and damages the optic nerve and, over time, this causes decreases of vision. The changes are typically so gradual that you won’t be aware of them until they reach advanced stages. 

Closed-angle glaucoma

This type of glaucoma is caused by a blockage at the drainage angle, not in the trabecular meshwork. Some patients with closed angle glaucoma have naturally narrow drainage angles, making them more susceptible to the condition. Unlike open-angle glaucoma, the closed-angle type can occur rapidly, referred to as acute closed-angle glaucoma. This is a medical emergency that needs attention as soon as possible. 

Pigmentary glaucoma

A form of open-angle glaucoma, this occurs when granules of pigment from your iris cause a blockage of the trabecular meshwork. Pressure build-ups due to iris pigment are often intermittent. 

Symptoms of glaucoma

Though open-angle glaucoma has few symptoms, you could notice blind spots in your peripheral or central vision, and both eyes often are affected. In later stages of the condition, your sight may be reduced to tunnel vision before blindness. 

Chronic closed-angle glaucoma is similar, but the acute form of this type includes: 

Glaucoma eventually causes blindness if left untreated. Treatments, which can include medications or surgical procedures, greatly reduce the risk of vision loss. 

You can reach the nearest office of IC Laser Eye Care by phone or online to arrange an eye exam. Book your consultation now to stay on top of glaucoma. 

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