Am Fam Physician. 2016 Apr 15;93(8):668-74.


Glaucoma is a set of irreversible, progressive optic neuropathies that can lead to severe visual field loss and blindness. The two most common forms of glaucoma, primary open-angle glaucoma and primary angle-closure glaucoma, affect more than 2 million Americans and are increasing in prevalence. Many patients with glaucoma are asymptomatic and do not know they have the disease. Risk factors for primary open-angle glaucoma include older age, black race, Hispanic origin, family history of glaucoma, and diabetes mellitus. Risk factors for primary angle-closure glaucoma include older age, Asian descent, and female sex. Advanced disease at initial presentation and treatment nonadherence put patients with glaucoma at risk of disease progression to blindness. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has concluded that the evidence is insufficient to assess the potential benefits and harms of screening for glaucoma in the primary care setting. Regular eye examinations for adults are recommended by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, with the interval depending on patient age and risk factors. Diagnosis of glaucoma requires careful optic nerve evaluation and functional studies assessing a patient's visual field. The goal of treatment with eye drops, laser therapy, or surgery is to slow visual field loss by lowering intraocular pressure. Family physicians can contribute to lowering morbidity from glaucoma through early identification of high-risk patients and by emphasizing treatment adherence in patients with glaucoma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists / therapeutic use*
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Age Factors
  • Carbonic Anhydrase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Cholinergic Agonists / therapeutic use*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data
  • Glaucoma, Angle-Closure / diagnosis
  • Glaucoma, Angle-Closure / drug therapy*
  • Glaucoma, Angle-Closure / epidemiology
  • Glaucoma, Angle-Closure / physiopathology
  • Glaucoma, Open-Angle / diagnosis
  • Glaucoma, Open-Angle / drug therapy*
  • Glaucoma, Open-Angle / epidemiology
  • Glaucoma, Open-Angle / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Prostaglandins, Synthetic / therapeutic use*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors


  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Carbonic Anhydrase Inhibitors
  • Cholinergic Agonists
  • Prostaglandins, Synthetic