To characterize the rate and pattern of age-related and glaucomatous neuroretinal rim area changes in subjects of African and European descent.Prospective longitudinal study.Two hundred ninety-six eyes of 157 healthy subjects (88 patients of African descent and 69 of European descent) and 73 progressing glaucoma eyes of 67 subjects (24 patients of African descent and 43 of European descent) from the Diagnostic Innovations in Glaucoma Study and the African Descent and Glaucoma Evaluation Study were included.Global and sectoral rim areas were measured using confocal laser scanning ophthalmoscopy. Masked stereophotograph review determined progression of glaucomatous optic disc damage. The rates of absolute rim area loss and percentage rim area loss in healthy and progressing glaucomatous eyes were compared using multivariate, nested, mixed-effects models.Rate of rim area loss over time.The median follow-up time was 5.0 years (interquartile range, 2.0-7.4 years) for healthy eyes and 8.3 years (interquartile range, 7.5-9.9 years) for progressing glaucoma eyes. The mean rate of global rim area loss was significantly faster in progressing glaucomatous eyes compared with healthy eyes for both rim area loss (-10.2×10(-3) vs. -2.8×10(-3) mm(2)/year, respectively; P < 0.001) and percentage rim area loss (-1.1% vs. -0.2%/year, respectively; P < 0.001), but considerable overlap existed between the 2 groups. Sixty-three percent of progressing glaucoma eyes had a rate of change faster than the fifth quantile of healthy eyes. For both healthy and progressing eyes, the pattern of rim area loss and percentage rim area loss were similar, tending to be fastest in the superior temporal and inferior temporal sectors. The rate of change was similar in progressing eyes of patients of African or European descent.Compared with healthy eyes, the mean rate of global rim area loss was 3.7 times faster and the mean rate of global percentage rim area loss was 5.4 times faster in progressing glaucoma eyes. A reference database of healthy eyes can be used to help clinicians distinguish age-related rim area loss from rim area loss resulting from glaucoma.