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Adult Glaucoma Suspect

Adult Glaucoma Suspect Overview

Glaucoma is usually high pressure inside the eye that damages the optic nerve and can result in permanent vision loss. Not all 3 criteria (that is, high pressure inside the eye, optic nerve damage, and vision loss) are required to diagnose glaucoma; however, a diagnosis of glaucoma is certain when all 3 criteria are present.

Elevated pressure inside the eye, called intraocular pressure (IOP), is a primary concern because it is one of the main risk factors for glaucoma. In fact, the prevalence of primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), the most common form of glaucoma, is higher with increasing IOP.

Eye pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Normal eye pressure ranges from 10-21 mm Hg. Elevated IOP is a pressure of greater than 21 mm Hg. The term ocular hypertension (OHT) refers to any situation in which IOP is higher than normal.

Glaucoma suspect describes a person with one or more risk factors that may lead to glaucoma, including increasing IOP, but this person does not yet have definite optic nerve damage or vision loss due to glaucoma.

A great overlap can exist between findings in people with early glaucoma and in those who are glaucoma suspect and without the disease.

Because of this, regular eye examinations with an ophthalmologist (a medical doctor who specializes in eye care and surgery) are very important to identify and treat people who are glaucoma suspect. By monitoring them for the earliest signs of glaucomatous damage, visual function can often be preserved.

In individuals who are at a high risk of developing glaucomatous damage, preventive measures, including lowering the pressure inside the eye, may be needed.

In the United States, glaucoma is the second most common cause of legal blindness.

  • Between 80,000-116,000 persons are legally blind because of glaucoma. Each year, an additional 5,500 people are estimated to become legally blind.

  • At least 2.25 million people older than 40 years have glaucoma, but only half of them are aware of it and are being treated.

  • Elevated IOP is estimated to affect 5-10 million Americans, placing them at risk for glaucomatous damage. Each year, about 1% of individuals with OHT develop glaucomatous damage. In addition, one tenth of people with OHT lose vision within 10 years.

  • More than 7 million office visits occur per year to monitor people with glaucoma or to observe those who are glaucoma suspect.

  • In the United States in 1977, $400 million was spent on direct health costs related to glaucoma; $1.3 billion was lost because of decreased productivity.

Worldwide, more than 100 million people have elevated IOP.

  • More than 3 million people worldwide are blind because of POAG.

  • About 2.4 million people develop POAG each year.

Race can be a factor in the development of glaucoma.

  • Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in African Americans. African Americans have a significantly increased risk for developing POAG. The prevalence of POAG is 3-6 times higher in African Americans than in whites; glaucoma also usually occurs earlier. African Americans who are diagnosed with glaucoma not only are 4-8 times more likely to become blind but also go blind 8 times faster.

  • Asians, Canadians, Alaskans, Greenland Inuit Indians, and certain South American Indians are at an increased risk for narrow-angle glaucoma.

POAG affects men and women equally, although women are at a greater risk for angle-closure glaucoma than men. 

Increasing age is a definite risk factor.

  • The risk of POAG increases with advancing age.

  • The prevalence of POAG is 3-10 times higher among individuals older than 80 years than among people in their 40s.

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