The natural history of untreated ocular hypertension and glaucoma

Surv Ophthalmol. 2023 May-Jun;68(3):388-424. doi: 10.1016/j.survophthal.2022.12.001. Epub 2022 Dec 21.


Glaucoma is a chronic, progressive disease leading to irreversible blindness if left untreated; however, since reducing intraocular pressure has proven to be successful in slowing disease progression, little is known about the natural history of untreated glaucoma. This knowledge can be valuable in guiding management decisions in the era of personalized medicine. A systematic search was performed in Medline (PubMed), Embase, and Web of Science in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRIMSA) guidelines. The rate of structural and/or functional progression and conversion to glaucoma or to a more advanced stage of glaucoma are discussed for ocular hypertension and different types of open-angle glaucoma. Forty-three studies were included. Different rates of progression were found both among and within the different diagnostic groups that belong to the open-angle glaucoma spectrum. The highest rate was found in pseudoexfoliation glaucoma, followed by high tension glaucoma, normal tension glaucoma, and ocular hypertension, in decreasing order. The lowest rate was observed in glaucoma suspects. The known rates of progression provide valuable prognostic information for ophthalmologists and patients. Nonetheless, due to high variability among patients, individual progression cannot be accurately predicted and repeated follow-up examinations are required to estimate individual progression.

Keywords: Glaucoma; Natural history; Open-angle glaucoma; Progression; Untreated.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Eye
  • Glaucoma*
  • Glaucoma, Open-Angle* / complications
  • Glaucoma, Open-Angle* / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Intraocular Pressure
  • Ocular Hypertension*