older couple with glasses

Known as the silent thief of sight — glaucoma — a chronic, progressive disease that leads to damage of the optic nerve, is the second-leading cause of blindness in the world.

According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, more than 2.2 million Americans are affected, but only half of those know they have it. While it is typically a disease that affects older adults, anyone — including children — can be affected.

“For most people, it’s really written in their genes,” Dr. Ian Conner, MD, UPMC Vision Institute, tells WPXI. “There are a variety of types of glaucoma, but, for the most part, people are predisposed to develop glaucoma because of the genes they carry. They often have a family history that they know of. There are also less common types of glaucoma caused by things like injuries.”

Early diagnosis is the most important factor in preventing vision loss. By diagnosing early, eye doctors are able to tailor the treatments and help slow progression of the disease.

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“Glaucoma usually does not have any symptoms for the patient, therefore it has to be diagnosed at the time of a routine eye exam,” says Dr. Conner. “These are often conducted in order to update a pair of glasses, or just as a routine annual exam.”

Having regular eye exams is an important part of maintaining good eye health. During your eye exams, the doctor will discuss risk factors including:

  • Age
  • Family history
  • Medical conditions
  • Ethnicity
  • Prolonged use of certain medications
  • Elevated ocular pressure

If you are diagnosed with glaucoma there are a number of different treatment options available ranging from eye drops to medication to surgery. To find out if you’re at risk, call 412-647-2200 to schedule an appointment with one of our eye doctors.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About UPMC Vision Institute

The UPMC Vision Institute is a national leader in the treatment of eye diseases and disorders. We seek to improve and restore your vision to help your quality of life, diagnosing and treating a wide range of conditions in both children and adults. Our treatments include both surgical and nonsurgical options. We also offer routine eye screenings and have full-scale optical shops. Find an eye expert close to you.