Risk Factors for Glaucoma

The following risk factors have been associated with the development of one or more types of glaucoma:

  • Age: Over age 60
  • Elevated Eye Pressure: Internal eye pressure higher than normal. Most eye care professionals define the range of normal intraocular, or "within the eye" pressure (IOP) as between 10 and 21 mm Hg [i.e., millimeters of mercury, which is a pressure measurement]. Most persons with glaucoma have an IOP measurement of greater than 21 mm Hg.
  • Ethnic Background: People of black African or black Caribbean descent, Hispanics, and Asians have an increased risk of developing glaucoma, and of developing it at an earlier age.
  • Family History: Family history of glaucoma, such as a sibling or parent with glaucoma. The most common type of glaucoma, primary open angle glaucoma, is more common in people with a family history of glaucoma.
  • Eye Conditions, Injuries, or Surgeries: Injuries to the eye, such as blunt trauma and sports injuries, or a history of multiple eye surgeries for chronic eye conditions. Blunt trauma can create inflammation in the eye or alter the anatomy of the drainage system of the eye and place the patient at increased risk for development of glaucoma. Inflammation occurs with any eye surgery. Usually the inflammation is limited and causes very minimal alteration of the anatomy of the drainage system of the eye. However, in rare cases, more inflammation and/or damage to the drainage structures in the eye can occur, putting the person at increased risk for glaucoma.
  • Hyperopia: People with hyperopia (farsightedness) tend to be more at risk for narrow-angle glaucoma, also known as angle-closure glaucoma or closed-angle glaucoma.
  • Prolonged Corticosteroid Use: Long-term corticosteroid use (eyedrops, pills, inhalers, creams)
  • Conditions that affect, or are related to, blood flow: Migraines, diabetes, low blood pressure, and hypertension
  • High myopia: Nearsightedness
  • Corneal thickness: Central corneal thickness less than 0.5 millimeters

Ways to Reduce Your Risk

  • The best ways to reduce your risk of experiencing permanent vision loss from glaucoma are to get regular comprehensive eye exams and to follow the treatment regimen prescribed by your eye care professional.
  • If you have problems with the eye drops prescribed for your glaucoma, do not stop taking them. Instead, contact your eye doctor immediately to find out if you need to change your medication.
  • The onset of glaucoma usually does not cause noticeable symptoms, so early detection, informed management of your glaucoma, and ongoing follow-up exams are crucial to limiting vision loss.
  • For patient-centered information about glaucoma detection, treatment, and everyday management, see Patient's Guide to Living with Glaucoma and Guía del Paciente: Vivir con Glaucoma.

Resources and Information

Publications

  • Radhakrishnan, S., Cunningham, Jr., E.T., & Iwach, A. (2010). Inflammatory disease and glaucoma. In P. N. Schacknow & J.R. Samples (Eds.), The glaucoma book: A practical, evidence-based approach to patient care. New York, NY: Springer.
  • Schacknow, P. N. & Samples, J. R. (Eds.) (2010). The glaucoma book: A practical, evidence-based approach to patient care. New York, NY: Springer.
  • You, J. Y., Park, S. C., Teng, C. C., & Ritch, R. (2013). Focal lamina cribrosa defects associated with glaucomatous rim thinning and acquired pits. JAMA Ophthalmology,131(3), 314–20. doi: 10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2013.1926
  • Zimmerman, T. J. & Kooner, K. S. (2001) Clinical pathways in glaucoma. New York, NY: Thieme

Personal Stories

  • Joe Lovett
    Meet advocate and filmmaker Joe Lovett, director of Going Blind, a documentary film created to increase public awareness of blindness, vision loss, and the vision rehabilitation system. It is also Joe's personal story of his struggle with glaucoma.

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