Risk Factors for Glaucoma
Updated by Sefy Paulose, M.D,, March, 2022
The following risk factors have been associated with the development of one or more types of glaucoma:
- Elevated eye pressure:
- Eye pressure can vary considerably over a 24-hour period. So, one eye pressure measurement taken in the office does not provide an accurate assessment of eye pressure as elevated eye pressure may occur intermittently in glaucomatous eyes. However, most eye care professionals define the range of normal eye pressure as between 10 and 21mmHg (millimeters of mercury which is a pressure measurement).
- Over age 60
- Ethnic Background:
- People of Black African and/or Black Caribbean descent, Hispanics, and Asians have an increased risk of developing glaucoma, developing it at an earlier age and at a more advanced stage than those of White individuals.
- 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.
- Refractive error:
- High myopia, or nearsightedness, has shown to put patients at a greater risk for the most common type of glaucoma, primary open angle glaucoma
- High hyperopia, or farsightedness, increases the risk for glaucoma related to a blocked drainage system of the eye also called narrow angle glaucoma or angle closure glaucoma.
- Corneal thickness:
- Cornea is the structure in the front of the eye that gives a particular refract. A thin cornea can increase the risk of glaucoma specifically corneas with a central corneal thickness less than 0.540 millimeters
- Medical conditions:
- Diabetes mellitus: Patients with uncontrolled diabetic mellitus can result in diabetic retinopathy which can block the drainage system of the eye and cause a specific kind of glaucoma
- 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 can cause secondary glaucoma. 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 but is usually limited and causes very minimal alteration of the anatomy of the drainage system of the eye. Rarely, more inflammation and/or damage to the drainage structures in the eye can occur, putting the person at increased risk for glaucoma.
- Other conditions: There are several other conditions that may increase the risk of glaucoma, but further research is still needed to stratify this risk: sleep apnea, thyroid disorders, migraine headaches, low blood pressure, hypertension.
Ways to Reduce Your Risks
- 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.