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Glaucoma May Run in Families

Siblings of people with the disease are at heightened risk, study finds

TUESDAY, Dec. 20, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Siblings of people with glaucoma have a significantly greater risk of developing the eye condition and should be screened for it, concludes a study in the current issue of the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

Researchers monitored 271 siblings of 156 people with glaucoma for more than a decade and found that 11.8 percent of the siblings were diagnosed with definite glaucoma and 5.5 percent were diagnosed with suspected glaucoma.

The study concluded that siblings of people with glaucoma have a 20 percent lifetime chance of developing the disease, a rate that's about four times the risk of the general population. This link between siblings could be the result of similar genes and/or shared environment, said the researchers, from University Hospital Nottingham in England.

They noted that the average time between initial glaucoma assessment and the last visit to an optician was just over a year. This suggests that opticians are not always able to detect glaucoma in this group of people who are at increased risk for the condition, the researchers said.

"We therefore suggest that formal screening resources should be targeted at this high-risk group, and that a screening program should actively recall siblings every two years even if the initial screening results are negative," the study authors wrote.

Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye's optic nerve and result in vision loss, even blindness.

More information

The Glaucoma Foundation has more about glaucoma.

SOURCE: BMJ Specialist Journals, news release, Dec. 20, 2005
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