Family history can play a significant role in glaucoma development and can increase risk by as much as 20 percent. Although comprehensive eye exams are important for all ages and ethnicities, African Americans should get a thorough check for glaucoma every 1 to 2 years after the age of 35. This is because African Americans are five times more likely to develop glaucoma and six times more likely to have glaucoma-related blindness.
African Americans tend to develop glaucoma about 10 years earlier in life, and the disease often progresses faster than in individuals of other ethnicities. This means that there is an increased risk for vision loss, so early diagnosis is essential.
African Americans in any of the following groups are at an even greater risk for glaucoma:
- Over the age of 40
- Extreme nearsightedness
- Prolonged steroid use
Another factor that increases glaucoma risk is having a sibling that is diagnosed with glaucoma. Research shows that siblings of an individual with glaucoma have almost a 10-fold increased risk of developing glaucoma compared to siblings of an individual who does not have glaucoma.
Glaucoma often has no symptoms in the early stages, so most cases of glaucoma are diagnosed during a comprehensive eye exam. The best way to preserve your vision is to schedule routine preventative screenings. If you are at increased risk for glaucoma, you can be assured that your eye care specialist will perform all necessary tests to measure your eye pressure and evaluate the health of your optic nerve. Talk to your eye care professional to assess your personal risk for glaucoma so you can schedule comprehensive eye exams at appropriate intervals (Source: Glaucoma Research Foundation).