Glaucoma and genetics

With review and feedback from CEENTA Ophthalmologist Pedro Cervantes, MD (SouthPark, Fort Mill, Steele Creek)

Glaucoma is a serious disease that, if left untreated, could result in permanent vision loss. Not only do people want to make sure they get the proper treatment, but they want to know what causes it. So, some people might wonder if glaucoma has a genetic component.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an optic nerve disease that is often, but not always, caused by a buildup of pressure inside the eye, known as intraocular pressure (IOP). When the aqueous humor – a clear liquid that normally flows in and out of the eye – cannot drain properly, pressure builds up in the eye. The resulting increase in IOP can damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss.

Glaucoma cannot be cured, only treated, and any associated vision loss would be permanent. Therefore, it’s important that people get regular eye exams and treatment when necessary.

Can glaucoma be in my genes?

Pedro Cervantes, MD

Studies have shown that there are some genetic risk factors associated with glaucoma, particularly in younger patients. For example, in primary congenital glaucoma – the most common childhood glaucoma for children younger than 3 and a major cause of pediatric blindness – genetic mutations account for most causes in Europe and the Middle East and about 15 percent of cases in America, CEENTA Ophthalmologist Pedro Cervantes, MD, said.

In juvenile open-angle glaucoma, about 20 percent of patients younger than 35 have a genetic issue causing the disease. However, children of these patients have a 50 percent chance of inheriting that gene.

Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma in adults. Current studies show that only about 10 percent of cases are attributable to genetics, but additional research is ongoing.

Should I get genetic testing?

If you know that you or your children might have a genetic predisposition for glaucoma, it may be advisable to get screened for those genes. That way, you can plan ahead and advise you or your child’s ophthalmologist that glaucoma may be an issue over time. And when it’s time for an eye exam, schedule your appointments at CEENTA.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. New patients can make appointments online with our eye doctors in North and South Carolina. Current patients can also make appointments through myCEENTAchart with physicians they have already seen.


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