Eye Health

Updated 25 July 2018

Risk factors for glaucoma

Researchers have pinpointed a number of factors that may be linked to the progression 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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