Age, family history significant risk factors for glaucoma

DEAR MAYO CLINIC: I'm 45 years old, and I just started wearing glasses a few years ago. I usually go to my eye doctor once a year for a checkup. During those exams, in addition to checking my vision, my doctor looks for signs of glaucoma. What is glaucoma? Who's most likely to get it?

ANSWER: Glaucoma, which is a group of serious eye disorders that damage the optic nerve, is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the developed world. Because it rarely causes symptoms in its early stages, regular eye exams that include checking for glaucoma are important. A variety of factors can raise your risk for glaucoma, including age and having a family history of the disease.