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Know your glaucoma risk level

You are at a greater risk of developing glaucoma if you have a family history of the disease. When you have a greater glaucoma risk, it’s even more important you attend regular check-ups, which is where Gethin’s glaucoma was caught.

For most people, glaucoma can be treated effectively when it is diagnosed early. That means good vision can be retained for life.

But of the 700,000 people in the UK who have glaucoma, half of them don’t know they have it. That’s why the NHS wants everyone to attend a routine eye test every two years – that way more people will be diagnosed before glaucoma has stolen sight.

Talk to your family

Glaucoma runs in families. You are much more likely to have glaucoma if a grandparent, a parent, a sibling or another close relative has it. And even having a more distant relative with glaucoma can give you some increased risk. This means it’s even more important to have your eyes tested regularly.

If glaucoma is left undetected, it can slowly steal your sight. In fact, you could lose up to 40% of your vision without even knowing. So we want everyone to understand their own family eye health history, so we can all take appropriate measures to catch the disease early before severe sight loss sets in.

Glaucoma Awareness Week is taking place between 24 – 30 June, and it’s the perfect opportunity to reach out to your relatives. Take the time to ask a loved one if they’ve ever had issues with their eye sight or see if they know of another relative who has had a glaucoma diagnosis.

Understanding your own risk can help you better look after your vision into the future.

Who is at risk of glaucoma?

Anyone can develop glaucoma but there are several risk factors which may make glaucoma more likely.

Age – Primary open angle glaucoma becomes more common with age. It’s 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+.

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.

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 of developing primary angle closure glaucoma.

Family history – There is at least a four-times higher risk of developing glaucoma if you have a close blood relative who has it.

Short sight – People with short sight (myopia) may be at increased risk of developing glaucoma.

Long sight – People with long sight may be at increased risk of developing primary angle closure glaucoma.

Diabetes – People with diabetes may be at higher risk of developing glaucoma.

Am I entitled to free eye tests?

Millions of people in the UK are eligible for free eye tests paid for by the NHS, but many may not know it.