Glaucoma Risk Factors

Hello. I am Dr. Carolina Valdivia. We hear a lot about risk factors for disease in newspapers and television. But, in my practice, I have found that there is a lot of confusion about what being a member of a risk group actually means. Let me be clear from the outset. Being at risk for developing a disease does not guarantee that you will get it. For example, everyone is at risk for catching the common cold but not everyone contracts the virus that causes it. Sure, there are some situations that place you at higher risk, such as a family member having a cold. But even that does not gaurantee that you will catch it. And, even if you do, it does not guarantee that your specific case will be severe. And there are steps that you can take to minimize your risk for getting it. So, what does being a member of a risk group really mean? Let’s consider glaucoma as an example. Glaucoma is a chronic disease of the eye that damages the optic nerve and can lead to blindness. Major risk factors for glaucoma are: having one or more family members with glaucoma, being over 40 years of age, having diabetes, and being of African-American or Hispanic ethnicity. And let me emphasize again, none of these factors, either individually or in combination, can cause glaucoma. For example, when you read in a newspaper or hear in a newscast that African-Americans are 3 or 4 times more likely to develop glaucoma, this is a statistical measure of risk that applies to the entire African-American population. It does not mean that if you are African-American, you personally are 3 or 4 times more likely to develop glaucoma. I hope that this helps to clear up any confusion about the issue of risk factors for disease. Remember eyesight is precious. We each only get one pair of eyes. Make sure you treat yours with care.

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