Glaucoma is a complex group of diseases and can be caused by a number of different things — from ocular hypertension and cataracts to diabetes and genetics. It’s typically split into two types: primary and secondary.
In order to help you understand glaucoma and its potential causes a little better, we’ve put together some information for you to look through. You’ll find information about the link between glaucoma causes and other conditions such as diabetes, whether or not glaucoma is preventable, and how it can develop in children.
What causes glaucoma?
The eyeball contains a fluid called aqueous humour, which is constantly produced by the eye, with any excess drained though tiny channels and tubes. When the fluid cannot drain properly, this causes the pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure) to rise.
Glaucoma typically develops when this increased pressure damages the optic nerve (which connects the eye to the brain) and the nerve fibres in the retina (the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye).
In acute glaucoma cases this pressure rises rapidly to higher levels, causing pain.
Glaucoma risk factors
Anyone can develop glaucoma, but there are several risk factors which make glaucoma more likely. These include:
- A family history of glaucoma – there’s at least a four-times higher risk of developing glaucoma if a close blood relative has it1
- Age – chronic glaucoma affects up to two in every 100 people over 40, and around five in every 100 people over 80
- Higher levels of short sightedness (myopia) in the chronic form, but also in the acute form of long-sightedness (hyperopia)
- Consistently raised pressure in the eye, called ocular hypertension (OHT)
- People of African-Caribbean origin have about a four-times higher risk of developing chronic forms of glaucoma compared to those of European origin.2 Acute glaucoma is much less common, but people of east Asian origin are more at risk of getting this type of glaucoma compared with those from other ethnic groups
- Diabetes – people with diabetes may be at a higher risk of developing glaucoma
- Blood pressure – very high blood pressure can lead to increase pressure in the eye. Low blood pressure can reduce the blood supply to the optic nerve
Read more articles about the causes of glaucoma
Eye problems in children: what is congenital glaucoma?
Congenital glaucoma is a rare condition that can occur in infants and young children. Learn about symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options here.
Glaucoma and cataracts: are they connected?
Glaucoma and cataracts are eye conditions that both commonly occur later in life — but beyond that, are they connected at all?
Glaucoma and diabetes: What’s the link?
Diabetes is a condition that causes your blood sugar level to be too high. It’s relatively common: 1 in 15 people in the UK have it.
Glaucoma prevention: can exercise help?
There may be certain lifestyle factors that can work to manage your risk of developing the condition. Read about what the research says.
Glaucoma prevention: is it possible?
Here, we’ll help you understand the risk factors involved in glaucoma, and take a closer look at what you can do to manage the condition.
Is glaucoma hereditary? Understanding the risk factors
Discover the risk factors for glaucoma, whether it's hereditary, and what to do if you’re at risk of developing the condition.
My blood pressure is high, am I at risk of glaucoma?
Though the symptoms are sparse, high blood pressure can increase the risk of developing eye conditions such as glaucoma.
Myopia control: can you minimise short-sightedness in children?
Recent research suggests that myopia may be minimised in children. Learn more about this research and the connection to glaucoma here.