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.
African Americans, especially after age 40 are at increased risk. Hispanics also have a high risk of developing glaucoma. 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 African Americans the risk generally increases after age 40. However, glaucoma can occur in anyone at any age.
High Intraocular Pressure
People with an elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) have an increased risk of developing glaucoma. However, even people with normal pressures can develop glaucoma.
Having a thinner corneas, the clear structures at the front of the eye, has been associated with an increased risk of developing glaucoma.
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 or farsighted, you are at increased risk of 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.
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.
Hypothyroidism has also been identified as a possible factor.
Ellis JD, Evans JM, 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.
Facts about glaucoma. National Eye Institute website. Available at: http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/glaucoma/glaucoma_facts.asp. Accessed July 16, 2013.
Heijl A, Leske MC, 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, et al. Hypothyroidism and the development of open-angle glaucoma in a male population. Ophthalmology. 2004;111:1649.
Open-angle glaucoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated June 6, 2013. Accessed July 16, 2013.
What is glaucoma? Glaucoma Research Foundation website. Available at: http://www.glaucoma.org/glaucoma. Accessed July 16, 2013.
Who is at risk for glaucoma? American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Available at: http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/diseases/glaucoma-risk.cfm. Accessed July 16, 2013.
Last reviewed May 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
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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