Correlated or not: Glaucoma prevalence and modern industrialization

Med Hypotheses. 2011 Feb;76(2):220-4. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2010.10.001. Epub 2010 Nov 5.


The higher prevalence of primary angle-closure glaucoma (PACG) among Eskimos, Chinese and Mongolians has long been acknowledged, while primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) is common in blacks and Caucasians. However, in recent years, the incidence of Chinese POAG has increased to a level similar to that of Western countries, and the urban prevalence is higher than the rural one. Is this a coincidental result, or is it a consequence of modern industrialization? The etiology of glaucoma is believed to be due to both genetic and environmental factors. Genetics plays an important role in the growth of the eye, as demonstrated in ethnic variations in glaucoma prevalence and family studies. At the same time, changes in environmental factors have resulted in countries experiencing one of the most rapid epidemiological transitions in history. For the modern human eye to adapt to a more close-up working environment, and with more education requiring close reading, there have been some changes in the eye structure, including a deepening of the anterior chamber, an increase in myopia, a decrease of hyperopia, etc. The changes in these factors were closely associated with the pathogenesis of glaucoma. And of these factors, myopia may have been the most important contributor. Myopia, as an independent risk factor, may increase susceptibility to glaucomatous damage of the optic nerve in myopic eyes. Myopic eyes are more sensitive to intraocular pressure (IOP) (even normal IOP)-induced stress for the thinner lamina cribrosa and larger scleral canal than emmetropic eyes. Axial myopia has longer axial length of the eye and deeper anterior chamber than the normal eye, leading to a less chance to develop angle-closure glaucoma. Due to the increase in myopia among the younger generation in the process of industrialization and urbanization, we hypothesize that the prevalence of glaucoma is correlated with these changes, and that POAG could become more common in Eskimos, Chinese and other Asian descendants in the future.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Asian People
  • China
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Glaucoma, Angle-Closure / complications*
  • Glaucoma, Angle-Closure / etiology
  • Glaucoma, Open-Angle / epidemiology*
  • Glaucoma, Open-Angle / ethnology
  • Glaucoma, Open-Angle / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Intraocular Pressure
  • Inuit
  • Myopia / complications
  • Myopia / pathology
  • Optic Nerve Diseases / complications
  • Optic Nerve Diseases / pathology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Population
  • Urban Population