Risk Factors for Glaucoma
A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
It is possible to develop glaucoma with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing glaucoma. If you have any risk factors for glaucoma, ask your healthcare provider if there is anything you can do to reduce your risk.
Risk factors for glaucoma include:
Family History of Glaucoma
If someone in your family has glaucoma, your risk of getting glaucoma is increased. Glaucoma may be inherited. However, if someone in your family has glaucoma, you will not necessarily develop the disease.
In black people, open-angle glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness and is six to eight times more common than in Caucasians. In addition, the risk among black people increases after age 40. Hispanics also have a high risk of developing glaucoma. Eskimos and Asians are more like to develop closed-angle glaucoma than other races.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the risk of getting glaucoma increases after age 50. For black people the risk generally increases after age 40. However, glaucoma can occur in anyone at any age. Guidelines recommend starting regular screening for glaucoma at the age of 40.
High Intraocular Pressure
People with an elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) have an increased risk of developing glaucoma. "Elevated" is usually defined as greater than 21 mm mercury (Hg). However, even people with “normal” pressures can develop glaucoma. Research indicates that taking eye drops to lower elevated intraocular pressure on a regular basis diminishes the risk of developing glaucoma.
A recent large clinical trial discovered that patients with thinner corneas (the clear structure at the front of the eye) are at an increased risk of developing glaucoma. They also found that African-Americans have thinner corneas than Caucasians.
High Blood Pressure
Some studies have shown that having high blood pressure increases the risk of glaucoma. However, this is still controversial.
Some studies have shown that diabetes is associated with an increased risk of developing glaucoma.
If you are nearsighted (myopic), you are at an increased risk of developing open-angle glaucoma. If you are farsighted (hyperopic), you are at an increased risk of developing closed-angle glaucoma.
Regular, Long-term Steroid/Cortisone Use
Long-term use of all forms of corticosteroids may increases the risk of glaucoma by increasing the pressure in the eye.
Previous Eye Injury or Eye Surgery
An eye injury may damage structures in the eye leading to impaired fluid drainage. Complications of eye surgery may also sometimes lead to glaucoma.
History of Severe Anemia or Shock
A history of severe anemia or shock has been identified as possible risk factors associated with glaucoma or other optic nerve disorders.
Cardiovascular Disease or Insufficient Blood Flow
People with cardiovascular disease or conditions resulting in decreased blood flow to the eye may be at an increased risk of developing glaucoma.
American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Available at: http://www.aao.org/ .
Merck Manual Online website. Available at: http://www.merck.com/mmpe/index.html .
National Eye Institute website. Available at: http://www.nei.nih.gov/ .
Ellis JD, Evans JM, Ruta DA, et al. Glaucoma incidence in an unselected cohort of diabetic patients: is diabetes mellitus a risk factor for glaucoma? DARTS/MEMO collaboration. Diabetes Audit and Research in Tayside Study. Medicines Monitoring Unit. Br J Ophthalmol. 2000;84:1218.
Heijl A, Leske MC, Bengtsson B, et al. Reduction of intraocular pressure and glaucoma progression: results from the Early Manifest Glaucoma Trial. Arch Ophthalmol. 2002;120:1268.
Girkin CA, McGwin G Jr, McNeal SF, et al. Hypothyroidism and the development of open-angle glaucoma in a male population. Ophthalmology. 2004;111:1649.
Last reviewed June 2008 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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