Eye Health

Updated 12 April 2018

Risk factors for glaucoma

Researchers say they've pinpointed a number of factors that may be key to the progression of the eye disease glaucoma.


Risk factors differ for the various forms of glaucoma.

The following is a list of risk factors for primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), the most common form:

Older age (>40)

Black race (glaucoma strikes earlier and progresses faster)

Family history (if a first-degree relative is affected, you’re at increased risk)

Diabetes (people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop glaucoma as non-diabetics)

Vascular diseases (i.e. both hypertension and hypotension can increase your risk)

Raised intraocular pressure (fluid pressure inside the eye)

Certain ocular conditions (i.e. shortsightedness, certain retinal detachments, central retinal vein occlusion)

Long-term use of the oral contraceptive pill

Asian individuals have a higher risk of developing acute angle-closure glaucoma (AACG). The faster rise in the pressure can rapidly cause more severe damage to the optic nerve. 

Risk factors that have been identified for acute angle-closure glaucoma are:

Belonging to certain racial groups (Chinese, South East Asians, Eskimos)

Older age (>60)

Female gender (women are four times more likely to be affected than men)

Family history (if a relative is affected, you’re at increased risk)

Short eyes

Far-sighted eyes

Reviewed by ophthalmologist Dr Tshilidzi van der Lecq. MBChB (UCT), Mmed (Ophth), FC Ophth (SA). March 2018.


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Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

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