Causes and risk factors for glaucoma
Glaucoma is a result of damage to the optic nerve and is usually associated with increased pressure within the eye, although glaucoma can develop in eyes with normal pressure.
Secondary glaucoma conditions are caused by another condition that increases the pressure in the eye (such as uveitis, diabetic retinopathy or pigment dispersion syndrome) and damages the optic nerve.
Anyone can develop glaucoma, but there are a number of factors which increase your risk:
You are more likely to develop glaucoma if you are over the age of 40.
People of African, Hispanic, Latino or Asian descent who are over the age of 40 are more likely to develop glaucoma.
Eye injury or surgery
Having an eye injury or certain types of eye surgery can increase your risk of glaucoma. Wearing eye protection when using power tools or playing high speed racket sports can help protect your eyes from injury.
If you have a family history of glaucoma, you have a higher risk of developing the condition yourself.
High internal eye pressure
In many types of glaucoma, high internal eye pressure is thought to damage the optic nerve. Reducing eye pressure can reduce the risk of developing glaucoma, and slow the progression of the condition once it has begun. Regular, moderate exercise can reduce eye pressure and may help decrease your risk of glaucoma. If your eye pressure is high, your doctor may prescribe eye drops which can help to lower the pressure.
Being extremely near-sighted or far-sighted is thought to increase your risk of glaucoma.
Other medical conditions
Certain other medical conditions (both eye-related and not) can increase your risk of developing glaucoma. These include: uveitis, pigment dispersion syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, migraines, poor blood circulation and sickle cell anaemia.
Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications can increase your risk of glaucoma.
People whose centre of the cornea is thin face a higher risk of developing glaucoma.
Thinning of the optic nerve
People who have thinning of the optic nerve are more likely to develop glaucoma.
Regular eye exams are vital in detecting glaucoma early and preventing sight loss. If you have any of the conditions listed above, talk to your eye healthcare professional about how often you should be having a comprehensive dilated eye examination.
Read nextHow is glaucoma diagnosed?