Glaucoma is the most common cause of irreversible vision loss, and it affects 60 million people worldwide and about 2.7 million Americans. The disease causes vision loss by increasing the fluid pressure inside the eyeball, squeezing and damaging the optic nerve, according to the NEI.The three newly identified genes associated with primary open angle glaucoma bring the total number of such genes to 15, according to the study published online Jan. 11 in Nature Genetics.
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“Just in time for Glaucoma Awareness Month (January), this unprecedented analysis provides the most comprehensive genetic profile of glaucoma to date,” Dr. Paul Sieving, director of the U.S. National Eye Institute (NEI), said in an institute news release.
“These findings open avenues for the pursuit of new strategies to screen for, prevent and treat glaucoma,” he added.
Glaucoma is a group of conditions that damage the optic nerve, the bundle of nerve fibers connecting the eye to the brain. Primary open angle glaucoma, the most common type, was studied in this analysis. In the majority of cases, pressure inside the eye is increased.
The causes of primary open angle glaucoma are believed to involve the interplay of many genes with environmental factors.