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Five Risk Factors for Glaucoma

Five Risk Factors for Glaucoma

Glaucoma is one of the most common eye diseases among adults. Three million Americans have the disease, and it is the second leading cause of blindness. 

It encompasses a range of conditions that cause damage to the optic nerve due to increased pressure in the fluid of the eye. This fluid drains typically where the iris and cornea meet through mesh-like tissue. When the body overproduces fluid or drainage is inhibited, pressure builds up.

The gradual damage to the nerve is painless, with vision problems developing very slowly. With little to no symptoms at the onset of the disease, nearly half of the people affected do not know they have the disease.

While early symptoms might only be small blind spots or decreased peripheral vision, inevitably, the disease will cause total blindness.

Five Risk Factors for Glaucoma

There is currently no cure for glaucoma, but vision loss can be prevented if caught early. Since anyone can get glaucoma, regular comprehensive eye exams are the best way to detect and prevent damage. However, there are several factors that increase your chances of developing glaucoma.

1. Genetics

If you are of African American, Hispanic, or Asian descent or have a family history, specifically first-degree blood relatives with the condition, you are at an increased risk of glaucoma. While many different mutations can lead to glaucoma development, myocilin mutations, which can cause onset before the age of 35, are passed on by parents to 50 percent of their children. 

The good news is genetic testing is available for an array of genetic risk factors and may be covered by many insurance plans. If you have a family history of the disease, you may wish to discuss if genetic testing is an option for you with an ophthalmologist.

2. Pre Existing Conditions 

Chronic medical conditions such as blood pressure, diabetes, and sickle cell anemia can significantly increase your risk for glaucoma. If you have diabetes, you are two times more likely to develop the condition than those without diabetes. If you know you are near or farsighted or have thin corneas, you are also at an increased risk.

High blood pressure is less of an issue, though it can contribute to a slight increase in fluid pressure within the eye. However, low blood pressure, either naturally or caused by medications for high blood pressure, puts you at a much greater risk of glaucoma. Lower blood pressure decreases your ability to get blood into an eye with increased fluid, starving nerves of nutrients and oxygen.

3. Eye Injury

Whether the trauma to the eye is blunt or penetrating, severe injury to the eye can put you at risk of developing glaucoma. The inherent bruise and swelling from injuries mean an increase of blood and other fluids to the area, increasing pressure, and clogging fluid drainage. 

In extreme circumstances, damage may cause glaucoma immediately or cause damage that builds up over the years.

4. Medications

Steroids are linked closely as a risk factor for developing glaucoma. Used widely to reduce inflammatory conditions, they affect the aqueous fluid outflow system of the eye, resulting in higher eye pressure. 

If you have other risk factors, you should discuss steroid usage, especially corticosteroid eye drops, with your doctor before you begin taking them.   

5. Age

Even in the absence of all other risk factors, age plays a large part in your chances of developing glaucoma. While it can develop at any age, the most common form, primary open-angle glaucoma, is most often seen in individuals 60 years and older.

Prevention of Glaucoma

The best way to prevent or manage glaucoma is to catch it early. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends a comprehensive eye exam every 5-10 years if you are under the age of 40, every 2-4 years between the ages of 40-54, and then 1-3 years for those ages 55 and older. 

If you have any risk factors listed above, you should have regular exams scheduled more frequently than the general recommendations. 

One way to help reduce your risk is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can help you manage your high blood pressure and diabetes risks. And if you have a job or hobby that might cause eye damage, such as racket sports or woodworking, be sure to wear protective gear.


If you start to experience frequent blind spots in either your central or peripheral vision or tunnel vision, you should look into scheduling a visit to the ophthalmologist. And seek immediate medical attention in the event of eye pain, redness, blurred vision, or halos around light sources.

Asheville Vision and Wellness

If you are overdue for a comprehensive eye exam or think you might be developing eyesight issues, reach out to us at Asheville Vision and Wellness or set up an appointment online to see one of our skilled staff members. We have been caring for patients in western North Carolina since 1989 using the latest technology and care.

We offer a wide array of services, from comprehensive eye exams to contact lens and medical eye evaluations. Our dedicated staff of optometrists is certified to diagnose, treat, and manage ocular disease.