Glaucoma Facts and Stats

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Glaucoma is a very misunderstood disease. Often, people don't realize the severity or who is affected.

Four Key Facts About Glaucoma

1. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness

Glaucoma can cause blindness if it is left untreated. And unfortunately approximately 10% of people with glaucoma who receive proper treatment still experience loss of vision.

2. There is no cure (yet) for glaucoma

Glaucoma is not curable, and vision lost cannot be regained. With medication and/or surgery, it is possible to halt further loss of vision. Since open-angle glaucoma is a chronic condition, it must be monitored for life. Diagnosis is the first step to preserving your vision.

3. Everyone is at risk for glaucoma

Everyone is at risk for glaucoma from babies to senior citizens. Older people are at a higher risk for glaucoma but babies can be born with glaucoma (approximately 1 out of every 10,000 babies born in the United States). Young adults can get glaucoma, too. African Americans in particular are susceptible at a younger age.

4. There may be no symptoms to warn you

With open-angle glaucoma, the most common form, there are virtually no symptoms. Usually, no pain is associated with increased eye pressure. Vision loss begins with peripheral or side vision. You may compensate for this unconsciously by turning your head to the side, and may not notice anything until significant vision is lost. The best way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to get tested. If you have glaucoma, treatment can begin immediately.

Some Statistics About Glaucoma

Sources are listed at the bottom of this page.

  • It is estimated that over 4 million Americans have glaucoma but only half of those know they have it. (1)
  • Approximately 120,000 are blind from glaucoma, accounting for 9% to 12% of all cases of blindness in the U.S. (2)
  • About 2% of the population ages 40-50 and 8% over 70 have high eye pressure.
  • Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, according to the World Health Organization.
  • Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness among African Americans. (2)
  • Glaucoma is 6 to 8 times more common in African Americans than Caucasians. (3)
  • African Americans ages 45-65 are 14 to 17 times more likely to go blind from glaucoma than Caucasians with glaucoma in the same age group.
  • The most common form, open-angle glaucoma, accounts for 19% of all blindness among African Americans compared to 6% in Caucasians. (4)
  • Other high-risk groups include: people over 60, family members of those already diagnosed, diabetics, and people who are severely nearsighted.
  • Estimates put the total number of suspected cases of glaucoma at around 70 million worldwide. (5)

Public Awareness and Attitudes

A survey done for Glaucoma Research Foundation found that:

  • 74% of over 1,000 people interviewed said they have their eyes examined at least every two years.
  • 61% of those (less than half of all adult Americans) are receiving a dilated eye exam (the best and most effective way to detect glaucoma).
  • 16% of African Americans were unfamiliar with glaucoma.
  • 9% of Caucasians were unfamiliar with glaucoma.

A 2002 Prevent Blindness America Survey found that:

  • Blindness ranked third (after cancer and heart disease) as people's major fear.
  • 20% of people knew that glaucoma was related to elevated pressure within the eye. Most of them mistakenly thought people could tell if they had glaucoma due to symptoms, or that it was easily cured, or that it did not lead to blindness.
  • 50% had heard of glaucoma, but weren't sure what it was.
  • 30% had never heard of glaucoma.

Economic Impact

  • Glaucoma accounts for over 7 million visits to physicians each year. (1)
  • In terms of Social Security benefits, lost income tax revenues, and health care expenditures, the cost to the U.S. government is estimated to be over $1.5 billion annually. (6)


Sources: (1) Prevent Blindness America; (2) National Eye Health Program/National Institutes of Health; (3) American Academy of Ophthalmology; (4) Racial differences in the cause-specific prevalence of blindness in east Baltimore. N Engl J Med. 1991 Nov 14;325(20):1412-7; (5) Quigley, "Number of people with glaucoma worldwide," 1996; (6) NEI, Report of the Glaucoma Panel, Fall 1998

Last reviewed on April 05, 2011

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