January is Glaucoma Awareness Month. Did you know glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness, only second to cataracts? When it comes to glaucoma, knowledge is power! Arm yourself with these facts and statistics so you are aware of the risk factors for this growing disease.
What is Glaucoma?
- In the early stages, glaucoma has no symptoms, no noticeable vision loss, no pain, which is why it is called the “sneak thief of sight.” By the time symptoms start to appear, some permanent damage to the eye has usually occurred.
- Glaucoma that is undiagnosed or poorly controlled can lead to damage of the optic nerve, visual field loss and ultimately sight loss. People with glaucoma usually lose peripheral vision first. Over time, glaucoma may also damage central vision. Once lost, vision cannot be restored.
- Everyone is at risk for glaucoma from young to old. Although older people are at higher risk, approximately 1 out of every 10,000 babies born in the United States is diagnosed with the disease.
- The US population with glaucoma is estimated to increase by nearly 50% to 4.3 million by 2032 and more than 90% to 5.5 million by 2050.
- Currently, the largest age group of glaucoma patients is the 40-59 age group. By 2018, the largest age group of glaucoma patients will be 70-79. The largest age group will be 80-89 after 2032.
- Currently, 64% of glaucoma patients are white and 20% are black. By 2050, most glaucoma patients will be non-white, due primarily to the rapid increase in Hispanic glaucoma patients. By 2050, blacks and Hispanics will each constitute about 20% of all glaucoma patients.
- The projected medical treatment costs related to glaucoma and disorders of the optic nerve are also expected to skyrocket in the coming years. Today, more than $6 billion is spent annually on the disease. In 2032, the number jumps to $12 billion a year and by 2050, the annual medical treatment cost is estimated to be $17.3 billion.
- Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in African-Americans.
- Glaucoma often occurs earlier in life in African-Americans—on average, about 10 years earlier than in other ethnic populations.
- Glaucoma is six-to-eight times more common in African-Americans than Caucasians.
- While open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma among Hispanics, Caucasians and African Americans, another form of glaucoma known as acute angle-closure glaucoma has traditionally been more common in certain Asian populations and Americans of Asian descent.
- Juvenile open angle glaucoma (JOAG) is a rare form of glaucoma that accounts for approximately one percent of total cases. The clinical features of JOAG are the same as those of more common forms of glaucoma.
Glaucoma Risk Factors
- Age: Those that are 40 and older are more likely to develop glaucoma. The older you are, the greater your risk.
- Race: People of African or Afro-Caribbean heritage are more likely to get glaucoma than the rest of the population. They are also more likely to develop glaucoma at a younger age.
- Family History: If you have a parent or sibling who has glaucoma, you are more likely to develop the disease.
- Diabetes: People with diabetes have a higher risk (40 percent) of developing glaucoma.
- Nearsightedness: People who are very nearsighted are at greater risk.
- Eye Injury or Surgery: Those who have had eye surgery or eye injuries may develop secondary glaucoma.
- Steroid Medication: Steroids may increase the risk of glaucoma when used for extended periods of time.
Types of Glaucoma:
- Chronic (Open Angle) Glaucoma: This is the most common type. In open angle glaucoma, aqueous fluid drains too slowly and pressure inside the eye builds up. It usually results from aging of the drainage channel, which doesn’t work as well over time. However, younger people can also get this type of glaucoma.
- Normal Tension Glaucoma: This is a form of open angle glaucoma not related to high pressure. People with normal tension glaucoma may be unusually sensitive to normal levels of pressure. Reduced blood supply to the optic nerve may also play a role in normal tension glaucoma.
- Acute (Angle Closure) Glaucoma: This causes a sudden rise in eye pressure, requiring immediate, emergency medical care. The signs are usually serious and may include blurred vision, severe headaches, eye pain, nausea, vomiting or seeing rainbow-like halos around lights. Occasionally, the condition may be without symptoms; similar to open angle.
- Secondary Glaucoma: Another 10 percent of glaucoma cases come from certain diseases and conditions that damage the eye’s drainage system. These include diabetes, leukemia, sickle-cell anemia, some forms of arthritis, cataracts, eye injuries or inflammation of the eye, steroid drug use and growth of unhealthy blood vessels.
- Post-surgical Glaucoma: Some surgeries, such as retinal reattachments, increase the chance of getting glaucoma.