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Glaucoma Prevention & Risk Factors

On this page, you will find the following:

Risk Factors

Open-Angle Glaucoma

Strong Risk Factors

  • High eye pressure
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • Age 40 and older for African Americans
  • Age 60 and older for the general population, especially Mexican Americans
  • Thin cornea
  • Suspicious optic nerve appearance with increased cupping (the size of the cup, the space at the center of the optic nerve, is larger than normal)

Potential Risk Factors

  • High myopia (very severe nearsightedness)
  • Diabetes
  • Eye surgery or injury
  • High blood pressure
  • Use of corticosteroids (e.g., eye drops, pills, inhalers and creams)

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Normal-Tension Glaucoma

Risk Factors

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Family history
  • Low eye pressure
  • Japanese ethnicity

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Angle-Closure Glaucoma

Risk Factors

  • Age
  • Family history
  • Poor short-distance vision (farsightedness)
  • Eye injury or eye surgery
  • East Asian and Inuit ethnicity

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Prevention: Lowering Risk

Scientists have not yet discovered a way to prevent people from developing glaucoma. The data is scarce and incomplete with regard to how lifestyle behaviors, such as diet, smoking or use of antioxidants, influence the development or progression of this eye disease. However, for those at risk of developing glaucoma, a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a nutritious diet is recommended by doctors to improve overall physical and mental well-being. Caring for mental and emotional health is also important.

Recommendations for general physical well-being:

  • Eat a varied and healthy diet. There is no scientific evidence suggesting that certain vitamins and minerals prevent glaucoma or delay its progress. However, carotenoids (especially lutein and zeaxanthin), antioxidants (such vitamins C and E), vitamins A and D, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids may all contribute to better vision.

  • Carotenoids, especially lutein and zeaxanthin, are found in dark green, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, including spinach, collard greens, kale, broccoli, papaya, oranges, mango, green beans, peaches, sweet potatoes, lima beans, red grapes, green and orange bell peppers, yellow corn, squash and apricots.

  • Foods abundant in vitamin C include green peppers, citrus fruits, tomatoes, broccoli, strawberries, sweet and white potatoes, leafy greens, and cantaloupe.

  • Vitamin E is found in eggs, fortified cereals, fruit, wheat germ, green leafy vegetables, nuts/nut oils, vegetable oils, and whole grains.

  • Vitamin A occurs in liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, mangoes, milk, and egg yolks.

  • The main dietary sources of vitamin D are cod liver oil, “oily” fish, fortified milk and cereal, and egg yolks.

  • Foods with zinc include oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, certain seafood, whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products

  • Wild salmon, sardines, walnuts, and flaxseed oil are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Limit caffeine intake to moderate levels. Some evidence suggests that high amounts of caffeine may increase eye pressure.

  • Try to exercise daily. Aerobic activities such as walking, swimming or even working in the yard, are recommended. While some studies have shown an association with increased intraocular pressure and exercise, there are new studies showing that aerobic exercise may actually decrease intraocular pressure transiently. Overall, studies on exercise and intraocular pressure aren't consistent enough to draw many conclusions or provide a definitive recommendation. In general, it is recommended to follow an exercise regiment for your general health. However, avoiding prolonged heavy weight lifting or inverted yoga positions may be reasonable until there are definitive studies to examine their long term effects. Consult with your eye doctor and your primary care doctor to determine an appropriate exercise regimen for you.

  • Maintain a healthy weight.

  • Keep blood pressure at a normal level and control other medical conditions.

  • Do not smoke.

  • Prevent overexposure to sunlight by wearing sunglasses and hats.

  • Regularly visit a physician for comprehensive eye exams.

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Further Information

The following BrightFocus publications provide more information:

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Disclaimer: The information provided is a public service of the BrightFocus Foundation and is not intended to constitute medical advice. It should not in any way substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional. Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice; all medications and supplements should only be taken under medical supervision. BrightFocus Foundation does not endorse any medical product or therapy.

Source: Some of the information in this section of our website was obtained from the National Eye Institute and the National Library of Medicine. BrightFocus Foundation is grateful to Carla J. Siegfried, M.D. at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri for reviewing aspects of the above content.

Last Review: 08/30/13

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