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Genetic testing can be used to determine glaucoma risks

(RxWiki News) More than 4.3 million Americans have glaucoma -- an eye disease that damages the optic nerve and can lead to blindness -- and more than half of them don't know it.

But now genetic testing is now available to detect certain hereditary risk factors for the disease.

According to Janey L Wiggs, MD, PhD, of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, blood or cheek cell samples would be collected from patients and family members from which a lab specialist would conduct gene sequencing. She said markers for congenital glaucoma, normal tension glaucoma, early-onset (before age 35) glaucoma and primary open-angle glaucoma in addition to other conditions that increase risk can be identified this way.

More genetic markers for open-angle glaucoma and other variants of the disease may soon be available.

Wiggs said the challenge that lies ahead of researchers is determining combinations of genes and/or environmental factors that will produce the most sensitive, specific screening tests.

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Review Date: 
December 29, 2010