What Increases Your Risk
Factors that increase your risk for glaucoma vary according to the different types of glaucoma.
Risk factors for open-angle glaucoma (OAG) include:
- High pressure in the eyes. Open-angle glaucoma is often associated with higher-than-normal pressure in the eyes (intraocular pressure, or IOP). But not all people with open-angle glaucoma have increased pressure inside the eye. Estimates vary, but as many as 40% to 50% of people with glaucoma have normal IOP, and most people with elevated pressures will never get glaucoma.1, 2High pressure in the eyes is the one treatable risk factor for open-angle glaucoma. But raised pressure in the eyes alone is not enough to diagnose glaucoma and does not always require treatment. If you have elevated pressure in your eyes but you do not have glaucoma, you will still need to be followed carefully by your doctor.
- Age. The risk for glaucoma increases rapidly after age 40.
- Race. Blacks are more likely than whites to have glaucoma.
- Family history of glaucoma. Relatives of people with open-angle glaucoma that is not caused by another condition (called primary open-angle glaucoma) have about a 9 times greater risk of developing glaucoma.4 Changes within the eye (enlarged cup-disc ratio)—not increased pressure in the eye—may be the first sign of glaucoma in these cases.
- Prior loss of vision in one eye from glaucoma. Damage in one eye from glaucoma is associated with a higher risk of future damage in the other eye. If glaucoma is not treated, the risk that damage will occur in the other eye within 5 years is about 29%.4
- Diabetes. People with diabetes tend to have higher pressure in their eyes than those without the disease. People with diabetes are also at risk for a type of secondary glaucoma where new blood vessels grow into and block the drainage angle of the eye (trabecular meshwork).
Risk factors for developing closed-angle glaucoma include:
- Race. People from East Asia or with East Asian ancestry, as well as Canadian, Alaskan, and Greenland Inuit peoples, are more likely than other people to develop closed-angle glaucoma.3
- Age. People over age 40 are at increased risk for closed-angle glaucoma.
- Sex. Older women are more likely than older men to develop closed-angle glaucoma.
- Birth defects. People who are born with narrow drainage angles in their eyes may develop closed-angle glaucoma if their pupils stay wide open (dilated). How much the pupil is dilated and how long it stays dilated, causing an attack of closed-angle glaucoma, varies from person to person.
- Farsightedness. People who are farsighted are more likely to develop this condition because their eyes are smaller and the drainage angles of the eyes tend to be narrower, allowing them to become blocked more easily.
- Family history. People with a family history of closed-angle glaucoma are more likely to develop the condition.
- Having closed-angle glaucoma in one eye. Having closed-angle glaucoma in one eye increases the risk of developing the condition in the other eye. About half of the people who have had acute closed-angle glaucoma in one eye develop closed-angle glaucoma in the second eye within 5 years.3
Risk factors for developing congenital glaucoma include:
- Infection in the mother during pregnancy. Babies born to mothers who have certain viral infections such as rubella during pregnancy are at a higher risk for congenital glaucoma.
- Family history. About 10% of infants with congenital glaucoma inherit the condition.5