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8 March 2023

World Glaucoma Week 2023: What is your glaucoma risk?

A mother and daughter taking a selfie. Text reads: World Glaucoma Week. What is your glaucoma risk?

World Glaucoma Week runs from 12-18 March 2023 and this year we want everyone to take charge of their personal glaucoma risk.

All of us should attend an eye test every two years, unless told otherwise by a medical professional, because glaucoma can be symptomless, and you can lose up to 40% of your sight without even realising. When glaucoma is detected, it can be managed and controlled, but once vision is lost, it can’t be recovered.

That’s why early diagnosis is crucial and most people first find out they might have the disease at a routine check-up with their local opticians.

While anyone can get glaucoma, some people are more likely to develop the disease than others. The following factors could put you at a greater risk:

  • Age – glaucoma is fairly rare below age 40, but rises from about two in 100 over the age of 40 to more than one in 20 for those aged 80+.
  • Family history – there is at least a four-times higher risk of developing glaucoma if you have a close blood relative who has it.
  • Ethnicity – people of African-Caribbean origin have about a four-times higher risk of primary open angle glaucoma compared to those of European origin. People of east Asian origin are at higher risk.
  • Blood pressure – very high blood pressure can lead to an increase in intraocular pressure. Low blood pressure can lead to insufficient blood supply to the optic nerve which can also cause problems.
  • Diabetes – people with diabetes may be at higher risk of developing glaucoma.

To raise awareness about glaucoma and the importance of eye tests this World Glaucoma Week, we’re encouraging everyone to consider their own glaucoma risk. You can help by spreading the word among your own networks, on social media and in your local community. Making someone reflect on their own circumstances could prompt them to book an eye test that could save their sight.

Meet Choon

Choon Tan at the top of The Shard in London

Choon was diagnosed with glaucoma just last year in his early 30s. It was a shock, and it made him anxious about his future and how the disease might affect his sight.

Effective treatment has now stabilised his pressures, but he’s learned a lot since his diagnosis. He’s now aware that his ethnicity and the fact that his maternal grandmother had the disease put him more at risk.

“It’s vital to speak to your family members to learn if there’s a history of the disease and find out if you’re at increased risk,” Choon says. “My dad and brother have both had their eyes checked since I was diagnosed and, thankfully, they’re both okay.”

If you have the disease yourself, you should speak to your family members about your experience to make sure they’re aware they are at an increased risk. Our leaflet titled glaucoma and your relatives can be helpful.

Choon is now dedicated to raising awareness about glaucoma, particularly among East Asian communities. You can read more about his experiences on the Your Stories section of our website.

Being at risk could entitle you to free eye tests

Certain glaucoma risk factors could make you or your loved ones eligible for free eye tests.

If you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, you will qualify if:

  • You’re aged 60 or over
  • You’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or glaucoma
  • You’re under 16, or under 19 and in full-time education
  • You’re 40 or over and have a close relative with glaucoma (your mother, father, sibling or child)
  • You are registered as partially sighted or blind

You might also be eligible for free eye tests if you or your partner receive certain benefits, such as Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Pension Credit Guarantee Credit, or Universal Credit, or if you’re under 20 and the dependent of someone receiving these benefits.