photo of eye exam equipment with doctor's hand working the equipment

Glaucoma is a number of different eye conditions that cause damage to the optic nerve. Glaucoma is a leading cause of vision loss in older individuals, but it can develop at any age. Vision loss from glaucoma isIs Glaucoma Hereditary?

permanent, so it’s important to catch glaucoma as early as possible. There are many forms of glaucoma that can develop with no symptoms until vision loss starts to happen. But is it hereditary? Yes, Glaucoma is in fact hereditary.

Family Members with Glaucoma

The most common form of glaucoma, primary open-angle glaucoma, is hereditary. If there are members of your immediate family that have glaucoma, then you are at a higher risk than the rest of the population. Having a family history of this disease can increase your risk up to nine times.

Lowering the Risks

Even if Glaucoma runs in your family, there are things you can do. Start by recognizing the risks.

Risk Factors for Glaucoma

While every individual can develop glaucoma, there are some groups that are at higher risk than others. Those who are in high-risk groups should see their eye doctor for a yearly eye exam that includes eye dilation. Your eye doctor can let you know how often you should have follow-up appointments based on the results of your screening.

People Over 60

Glaucoma is more common in older adults. You will be six times more likely to get glaucoma if you are over the age of 60.


Certain races are more likely to develop glaucoma. Glaucoma is the second-leading cause of blindness among African Americans. African Americans are six-to-eight times more likely than Caucasians to develop glaucoma. There are recent studies that show that the risk for Hispanic populations is also greater, especially for those that are over the age of 60. Those of Asian descent are more at risk for angle-closure glaucoma. Angle-closure glaucoma is a rarer form of the condition and accounts for less than 10% of diagnosed cases. Those of Japanese descent are at an increased risk for normal-tension glaucoma.

Steroid Users

There is some evidence that links glaucoma and steroid use. There is a 40% increase in open-angle glaucoma and ocular hypertension in adults who need steroid inhalers to control asthma. The study showed that the risk increases with those that require 14 to 35 puffs of the inhaler. This is a higher dose than most cases require and is used to treat severe asthma.

Previous Eye Injury

Eye injury can cause secondary-open glaucoma. This type of glaucoma can happen right after the injury or years in the future. Traumatic glaucoma can happen after a blunt injury that penetrates the eye and causes damage to the eye drainage system. The most common sports-related injuries that can lead to glaucoma are in boxing and baseball.

Other Risk Factors

Other risk factors include hypertension, high myopia or nearsightedness, or having a central cornea thickness that is less than .5mm.

Symptoms of Glaucoma

There will be different symptoms based on the type of glaucoma you have and the stage of development. Glaucoma will typically develop slowly so you won’t usually notice any issues until your vision is starting to be affected. Unfortunately, glaucoma can go undetected for years, especially if someone skips annual eye exams because there are no visual issues. As glaucoma starts to progress, you may notice tunnel vision or blind spots in central or peripheral vision.
Angle-closure glaucoma has some specific symptoms, and this type of glaucoma requires medical treatment. If you experience symptoms including eye pain, vomiting or nausea, blurred vision, halos around lights, or severe headache, you should seek treatment as soon as possible.

Many people assume that is they have glaucoma, they will be able to notice the increased eye pressure or have trouble seeing, but this isn’t always the case. Regular eye exams and visits with your optometrist are the best way to help identify symptoms of glaucoma before the condition gets much worse.

Causes of Glaucoma

Most forms of glaucoma, but not all of them, are caused by optic nerve damage and raise the IOP. Your eye pressure will increase when there is fluid buildup in the eye. The fluid drains through an angle where your cornea and iris meet, but there are different complications that can affect the drainage process. You may have issues that develop in the drainage system or may have more fluid than the average person. The cause of the optic nerve damage will depend on what type of glaucoma you have.

Types of Glaucoma

There are many different types of glaucoma and each one can affect you differently. Every form can develop without any symptoms until you start to see your vision change.

Open-Angle Glaucoma

This is one of the most prevalent forms of glaucoma and approximately three million Americans have this. This type develops when your fluid isn’t able to drain from the eye. The drainage problems lead to an increase in eye pressure with damage to the optic nerve and you then start to lose vision. Unfortunately, with this type of glaucoma, there are no early symptoms until there are vision problems. In the advanced states, you may have tunnel vision or blind patches.

Closed-Angle Glaucoma

This is less common than open-angle glaucoma, but it can also be hereditary. It typically happens very suddenly but there aren’t any symptoms that lead up to it. If you have a parent or sibling with this type of glaucoma, then your risk increases significantly.

Angle-Closure Glaucoma

This type of glaucoma has a significant risk to your vision. This type of glaucoma happens when your iris isn’t open or wide enough and causes a blockage of the drainage canals. The blockage causes the fluid to build up and increases the pressure in the eye. This type of glaucoma occurs both rapidly and gradually. There are more symptoms for this type and symptoms include eye redness, halos around lights, blurred vison, vomiting and nausea, eye pain, and severe headache. If you do have any of these symptoms, you want to visit your eye doctor right away.

Normal-Tension Glaucoma

Normal-tension glaucoma is different from other types because it doesn’t increase your eye pressure. Instead, your eye pressure stays low or consistent. Experts aren’t sure how this develops but this condition is detected by examining the optic nerve instead of measure eye pressure.

Treatment for Glaucoma

There is currently no cure for glaucoma. After diagnosing your condition, your ophthalmologist can help you manage glaucoma. If you have already experienced vision loss from glaucoma, the damage is permanent, but your ophthalmologist can help protect your eyes from further loss. Treatments can include surgery, oral medications, and prescription eye drops. The type of treatment you need will depend on the type of glaucoma you have and the severity of the disease. While glaucoma can have significant impacts on your vision, the condition can be managed.

One treatment outside of the normal, larger procedures for glaucoma is minimally invasive glaucoma surgery, or MIGS. The goal for any type of glaucoma surgery, including MIGS, is to reduce the eye’s pressure. Reducing the intraocular pressure is done to help improve the fluid in the eye or reduce the production of fluid. MIGS uses tiny incisions and microscopic-sized equipment that helps to reduce complications. These surgeries benefit patients through rapid recovery and less trauma to the eye tissue. Some MIGS procedures can even be done during cataract surgery.

Taking Action to Prevent Glaucoma

Since many forms of glaucoma don’t have any symptoms until damage is already done, it’s important to take action to prevent glaucoma. One of the most important things you can do is have regular visits with your eye doctor. If you are in the high-risk groups, then it’s important to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam in order to catch the disease early and start treatment. Even if you aren’t in a high-risk category, you should still have a dilated eye exam by the time you turn 40. Not only can this catch glaucoma early, but it could find other eye diseases as well. Since open-angle glaucoma is hereditary and this is one of the types that doesn’t present with other symptoms, you should talk to your family members about their own eye health to see if you need an earlier trip to the optometrist. If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma, it’s important to speak with your immediate family members so they can get the care they need. It’s also important to maintain a healthy weight, be physically active, and control your blood pressure in order to avoid vision loss from glaucoma. This can also help you avoid other chronic health conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes.

Early Detection is the Key to Preventing Vision Loss from Glaucoma

Early detection is the key to preventing vision loss from glaucoma. If you haven’t had a comprehensive eye exam in some time, it’s important to speak with an optometrist in order to prevent vision loss. If you have already been diagnosed with glaucoma, our glaucoma specialists can help you with treatment options in order to prevent the disease from progressing and help slow vision loss.

Contact the eye doctors at Florida Eye Specialists & Cataract Institute to schedule an appointment for an exam.