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Preventing Vision Loss from Glaucoma: Notes on Those at Higher Risk

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

As World Glaucoma Week, March 6 -12, 2022, comes to a close, we reaffirm the importance of protecting sight from this leading cause of blindness. The number of people diagnosed with glaucoma is increasing steadily, affecting more than three million Americans age 40 and older, with estimates that this number will reach four million by 2030. Data analyzed in 2012 showed that open-angle glaucoma, the most common form of glaucoma in the U.S., is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in African Americans. This data corroborated the results of the earlier Baltimore Eye Survey, which indicated that Black people were far more susceptible to developing glaucoma than the rest of the population. More recently, the African Descent And Glaucoma Evaluation Study (ADAGES) found that the vision and optic nerve structure were larger in healthy eyes in people of African lineage. The size of the optic nerve “can sometimes confuse the diagnosis of glaucoma, since larger nerves can give a false impression of glaucoma.” The Los Angeles Latino Eye Study (LALES) found increased risk of open angle glaucoma among Latinos as well. LALES also indicated that blood pressure affects eye pressure, and that both high and low blood pressure can cause optic nerve damage causing vision loss from glaucoma. Another study revealed that the highest number of people with open angle glaucoma are “those aged to 79 years, women and non-Hispanic whites.” Early detection and treatment are critical to preventing vision loss from glaucoma. It is “important to consider whether you have other risk factors for open-angle glaucoma, including increasing age over 40, high eye pressure, a family history of glaucoma, very high or very low blood pressures, extreme nearsightedness, or diabetes.” This underscores the need for regular, comprehensive dilated eye exams, which detect changes in your vision. To find out more about glaucoma and how to protect your eyes, visit the website of the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the National Institutes of Health (NEI) here. For more information about glaucoma in the Black and Hispanic communities, read the Bright Focus Foundation article, “Glaucoma in the African American and Hispanic Communities”.