A healthy inner eye has fluid that drains out. Glaucoma causes this fluid to drain too slowly or not at all. When this happens, the pressure inside the eye increases and damages the optic nerve.

The two most common types of glaucoma are:

  1. Open-angle glaucoma. This is the most common type of glaucoma, especially in older adults. It occurs when the eye’s fluid drains too slowly. 
  2. Narrow-angle glaucoma. Here, drainage of fluid is partly or completely blocked. Fluid pressure in the eye builds up quickly and damages the optic nerve. This is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment to prevent blindness!

Risk Factors for Glaucoma

  • Age older than 60. The older a person is the higher the risk. About 5 percent of people age 65 and older develop glaucoma and 10 percent of those age 80 and older develop it.
  • Race and ethnic background. People who are African-American, Asian, or Hispanic have a higher risk. Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in African Americans.
  • Genetics. If glaucoma runs in your family.”
  • Pre-existing eye conditions. People with poor vision, earlier severe eye injury, or other eye problems.
  • Other health conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease.
  • Medication history. Risk is higher when a person uses steroids in or around the eye. Drugs to treat congestion, depression, bladder problems, and certain other conditions also are risky.

Last Updated May 2023

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